RVA Legends — Bleak Hill

RVA Legends — Bleak Hill

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.


AKA, Pilcher House
227 South Belvidere Street
Built, before 1820
Demolished, 1939

After Col. Harvie’s death, “Belvidere” was occupied by various people, including Benjamin J. Harris and William Anderson. By the 1850’s it had deteriorated into a sort of rooming-house for ironworkers, probably the Irish or Welsh mechanics imported to work at the Tredegar. On February 5, 1854, it burned. So completely were both William Byrd, III, and Col. Harvie forgotten that this event got only a few lines in the Dispatch and no mention in the other two newspapers.

(LOC) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate P

An eyewitness, however, remembered the conflagration as the most spectacular he had ever seen: “… the house was of heart-pine… . When it burned, the framework stood awhile like the finest set piece of splendid fireworks.”

The writer of this letter, the Rev. John M. Pilcher, lived in one of the four houses that in the early 1800’s broke the vast stretches southwest of Richmond. “Belvidere” and the short-lived “Cottage” we have already described. At what is now the corner of Belvidere and Canal streets there stood until 1939 a brick house, which sat at rather a rakish angle to both streets and was swept away in the widening of Belvidere.

June 2017

Built before 1820, it was from 1837 until after the Civil War the home of John A. Pilcher and of his widow, John M. Pilcher’s parents. From its lonely location, the house was called “Bleak Hill.” Actually, it belonged neither to Oregon Hill nor to Sydney, since it was north of the Penitentiary and east of Belvidere Street. [ORN]

And then came the Downtown Expressway. Of course, this house bit the dust long before that event, so there really wasn’t much future in residential property here.

(Bleak House is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


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