Situated between Church Hill to the north and the James River to the south, Shockoe Bottom is a historic Richmond neighborhood with roots dating back to 1737 when William Byrd II received a land grant from King James. Over the centuries, it has played a central role in Richmond’s history.
Shockoe Bottom has a rich history as a center for commerce and trade, especially during its early years as Richmond became the capital of Virginia. Its proximity to the James River made it a hub for transportation, and it played a crucial role in receiving and storing various goods, with tobacco being a prominent commodity.
Tragically, Shockoe Bottom also has a dark history as one of the largest slave trading markets in the United States, second only to New Orleans. Wealthy slave traders built their homes and auction houses in the area, and Lumpkin’s Jail, a notorious slave holding facility, was located here along with an African American burial ground. While some of these structures have been lost to time through fires and demolitions, many of the historic homes in the neighborhood still stand today.
In recognition of its historical significance, Shockoe Bottom was named a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2015. The neighborhood’s complex history serves as a reminder of the United States’ past, both its economic prosperity and its deeply troubling legacy of slavery.
Shockoe Bottom’s history is marked by resilience and adaptation. After the Civil War and the destruction wrought by the conflict, the area was rebuilt, and businesses once again thrived. By the 1870s, warehouses, offices, and retailers dominated the landscape, and the Farmer’s Market was a bustling hub of activity.
In recent years, Shockoe Bottom has seen significant revitalization efforts. Historic tobacco warehouses have been transformed into upscale apartments, condominiums, and offices. Galleries, shops, and restaurants have continued to invest in the area. The city itself has also made substantial investments, including the transformation of the Farmer’s Market to include outdoor dining, improved pedestrian access, and enhanced aesthetics. The restoration of Main Street Station and the conversion of the old train shed into a grand event space represent a $90 million investment. Private projects are also underway, with more planned for the future. As a result, Shockoe Bottom has significant growth potential in the coming years.
Here are some things to do in the area to explore its history and vibrancy:
James River – Explore. Walk the flood wall. Rent a kayak or paddleboard for an hour.
Virginia Capital Trail – Exercise. 52 miles of dedicated biking / walking / running trail starts in the Bottom and ends in Williamsburg.
Millie’s Diner – An RVA tradition. Go for brunch. Grab a bloody mary and stand in line. Worth it.
LuLu’s – Brunch and dinner are pretty tasty and always on point.
Rosie Connolly’s – Richmonds favorite and most authentic Irish Pub. Enjoy a Guinness and chat with the owner Tommy. Live Irish music on Wednesday nights.
Havana 59 – Go Cuban style with ropa vieja and mojitos. Best experienced when the weather is warm and the garage doors are rolled up.
Edgar Allen Poe Museum – Learn more about the life and works of the man as well as his time in Richmond.
Shockoe Bottom Homes for Sale
Phone: +1 804.397.5078
Multiple-time Distinguished Achiever award winner, 2017 Richmond’s Finest Business Professional and a VIrginia Living Magazine Top 50 Realtor. Architecture lover, outdoor enthusiast and a true fan of all things RVA.