Aug 9, 201101:07 PMResident Tourist
Richmond: Art on the Edge
My friend Lynn and I recently visited her daughter Maddie, who’s a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond. I had been to Richmond before, but the scenes and impressions were forgotten and I looked forward to re-discovering the hidden angles and edges of Virginia’s capital city.
Maddie is an art major and was keen to show us not only the galleries near her house in Jackson Ward ("J Ward," to those in the know), but the objets d’art nearest to her heart: the neighborhood’s abandoned buildings and empty lots. We called it the “Maddie Tour” and knew we were getting a different look at the city than most visitors.
Maddie’s street is typical for J Ward: red brick townhouses bordered by wrought iron fences. This part of Richmond is second only to New Orleans in its use of decorative cast iron. That and the 600 homes listed on the National Registry make J Ward great strolling grounds for architecture lovers. The entire district is a National Historic Landmark.
Jackson Ward is like a perfect half moon—exactly in between waxing and waning. We saw lots of boarded storefronts, but also artsy shops like Quirk (exhibiting artworks) and hip coffee joints like Lift.
Art galleries are tucked into this half-moon part of town, enjoying the lower rents. Older businesses like Eugene’s Barbershop, run by Eugene’s grandchildren, are still getting by, but other spots, like all 22 floors of the Central National Bank building, are filled with ghosts and crumbling walls. Fearless Maddie led us right to the bank's old revolving door and in we went! I felt like we were walking in an artwork titled “What Was.”
We had lunch surrounded by the honey-colored walls of Mama J’s, a restaurant specializing in comfort food. And you do feel comforted from the moment you walk in hungry until you leave with a belly full of greens, catfish and macaroni and cheese.
Follow my day's journey in pictures below!