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RVA Legends — First Market & Cage

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



  • AKA, Old Market, Seventeenth Street Market, 17th Street Farmers Market
  • 100 North Seventeenth Street
  • Built, 1794 (Cage & 1st building); 1854 (2nd building); 1912 (3rd building); mid-1980’s (4th building); 2019 (plaza)
  • Demolished, 1827 (Cage); 1854 (1st building); 2nd building (1912); 1961 (3rd building); 4th building, 2015

A location of many incarnations.

[ORN] — from an insurance plat showing the original Market building (A) and Cage (B) — note the now-hidden Shockoe Creek flowing to the west of the Cage

The Building A on this plat is used as a Market house. Walls built of brick 126 feet long by 33 feet wide, 2 stories high covered with wood. The 2nd part is an addition to the said Market, 32 by 33 feet of one story in height.

The Building B is used as a Cage for disorderly persons. Walls build of Stone & Brick 52 feet in circumference three stories high with a dais. (illegible) these two Buildings are contiguous within 30 to each other, and are not contiguous within 30 feet to any other Building whatever. [ORN]

(Historical Richmond, Fiona Carmody) — showing a whipping post placed inside the market

As early as the 1780’s a market was established on the site of the present one now called “First Market,” “the Old Market” or the “Seventeenth Street Market.” At first it was only a wooden shed supported on locust-posts. Between it and Shockoe Creek was a green bank where women washed the clothes.

[RAW] — 2nd Market building built in 1854 — occupied by the Chahoon forces during the Municipal War of 1870

In 1794 a brick building replaced the primitive shed. Above it was a hall, which after the destruction of Quesnay’s Academy was used as a theatre. Before the erection of Mills’ City Hall, the Council had its meeting-room there. West of the market, as shown in the insurance-drawing, stood the “Cage,” or lock-up, of which institution and its unwilling tenants Mordecai gives a picturesque account. [ORN]

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) — Dementi Studio photograph of the 3rd Market building, date unknown but prior to World War II

Here were encaged (when caught) the unfeathered night-hawks that prowl for prey, and screeching owls that make night hideous, and black birds, who had flown from their own nests, to nestle elsewhere, like cuckoos; and some birds, both black and white, who had no nests at all were brought to roost here until that official ornithologist, the police master, should examine into their characters. This was a somewhat convenient arrangement to the citizen, who, on rising in the morning, missed the attendant on his household comforts, and as he went to market had only to look into the cage for his flown bird. [RBGD]

Truly, a multi-purpose campus, where shoppers could browse the foodstuffs and witness righteous punishment meted out via flogging. A little red meat to go with the veg; a Colonial-era version of Sports Clips. Good times.

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) — showing 4th Market building, which lasted from the mid-1980s to 2015

In 1854 a more commodious market was built. This also had a hall on the second floor which was often used for political meetings. The present “Old” or First Market dates only from 1913, and the oldest of the stores surrounding it goes back only to the 1830’s, but the location and atmosphere of the market are among the few things that have remained relatively static in a city that has changed practically everything that could be changed. [ORN]

May 2019 — showing the revamped First Market plaza, which formally opened in March 2019

The Farmers’ Market continued to prosper and undergo renovations until the mid 1900’s. It was during this time that the Shockoe Bottom area began to decline. The era of “bigger is better” came, and supermarkets were the modern answer to our grocery needs and family farmers were seduced by the regular paychecks offered by factories. The First Market House was razed in 1961 and the Farmers’ Market was reduced to scattered vendor stalls, but the predicted total demise never happened. (City of Richmond)

May 2019 — showing the bronze bell from the 3rd Market building

Indeed, there is no keeping this location down, as popular as it seems to be. In 2015, the 4th version of the Market space was reclaimed by the City of Richmond in an attempt to convert it to a public space, while still maintaining a gesture to its roots.

The significantly revised public plaza still carries the memories of the buildings that have gone before it, including the old bronze bell from the 3rd Market building, and the bullheads from the 4th building, which were actually rescued from the Second Market, which used to live at Sixth and Marshall Streets.

May 2019 — showing one of the two terra-cotta bulls that were displayed at the 4th Market building

This new space will still continue to host a weekly farmers market, but will also play host to festivals, music, art, vendors, educational programming, and whatever else comes along. Given the transformation of Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill over the last 10 years and the vast foot traffic, this just might be a formula for success.

Despite the fact that the new plaza is there for us to see, there are so many buildings lost to us that this is an RVA Legend. So let it be written.

(First Market & Cage is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)

Print Sources

  • [ORN] Old Richmond Neighborhoods. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1950.
  • [RAW] Richmond After the War. Michael B. Chesson. 1981.
  • [RBGD] Richmond in By-Gone Days. Samuel Mordecai. 1946, from the 2nd edition, 1860.


RVA Legends is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!



Combining protean forces from the forbidden Zero Serum with the unbridled power of atomic fusion, to better probe the Wisdom of the Ancients and their Forgotten Culture.

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Senate advances bill allowing transgender people to change birth certificate

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.



By Rodney Robinson

The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their transition.

Senate Bill 657 would allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect a change of sex, without the requirement of surgery. The individual seeking a new birth certificate also may list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change.

“I just think it’s important to try to make life easier for people without being discriminated [against] or bullied,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “Allowing an individual who is transgender to change their birth certificate without having to go through the full surgery allows them to live the life that they are due to have.”

The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a specific standard approach for an individual’s transition. Treatment could include any of the following: counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.

A similar process is required to obtain a passport after a change of sex, according to the State Department.

Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health vital records department, Boysko said.

Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents in situations like leasing apartments, opening a bank account or applying for jobs.

This is the third year that Boysko has introduced the bill. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee in previous years, but Boysko believes the bill has a better chance of becoming law this year.

“I believe that we have a more open and accepting General Assembly then we’ve had in the past, where people are more comfortable working with the LGBTQ community and have expressed more of an interest in addressing some of these long-overdue changes,” Boysko said.

Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality, said the organization is “really pleased that this bill is moving through.”

“This bill is really important for the transgender community,” Lamneck said. “Right now many transgendered people do not have identity documents … this is really problematic when people apply for jobs or try to open a bank account.”

There are 22 other states in America that have adopted legislation similar to this, including the District of Columbia, Boysko said. The senator said that “it’s time for Virginia to move forward and be the 23rd state.”

The Senate also passed Tuesday Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, along with bill outlawing conversion therapy with any person under 18 years of age.

The bills now advance to the House, where they must pass before heading to the governor’s desk.



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Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic Opens



From the Valentine:

Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic, a new exhibition opening on January 23, will feature oral histories and black-and-white photographic portraits, focusing on the personal stories of those affected by HIV/AIDS in Richmond.

Richmond’s rate of HIV infection, currently ranked 19thnationally, is exacerbated by high concentrations of poverty, lack of sex education in public schools and the continuing opioid epidemic. Despite years of medical and social progress, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS persist today.

While Americans on average have a one-in-99 chance of contracting HIV over the course of their lifetime, the odds for a gay black man are one in two. Black women have a rate of HIV infection 17.6 times that of white women. In fact, in Richmond, women make up a quarter of new HIV diagnoses.

Laura Browder and Patricia Herrera, both professors at the University of Richmond, collected 30 oral histories in an effort to put faces to these surprising statistics.

“The process has transformed our understanding not only of the epidemic, but more broadly of the way people can turn what one assumes to be a life-destroying event into an opportunity for making change,” said Herrera.“Many of the people we met lived lives charged with purpose—including, most urgently, to prevent others from becoming infected with the virus.”

“Most people outside of the public health community think that HIV is a disease that primarily affects gay, white men. We learned how far from the reality that is,” Browder continued. “The people represented in the exhibition include great-grandmothers, undocumented immigrants, college professors, church deacons and transgendered people. They include public health officials, HIV educators, medical providers, activists, and those who have lost loved ones to HIV.”

Local photographer Michael Simon produced the black-and-white portraits that communicate share the trials and triumphs of each person featured in Voices.

Rodney Lofton, August 2018 – Photographed by Michael Simon for the Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic

“These stories and these portraits are important to all of us,” said Simon. “These people are members of our community. They are friends and family and we need to remember that we are all in this fight together.”


“Featuring the powerful oral histories collected by Laura and Patricia and Michael’s phenomenal photography, we hope this exhibition contributes to an important ongoing discussion about the true impact of HIV/AIDS on the Richmond community,” Valentine Director Bill Martin said. 


In coordination with the exhibition opening, Nationz Foundation, a local non-profit providing education, information and programming related to HIV, will be conducting free on-site HIV testing noon to 4 p. m. on Thursday, January 23 at the Valentine.


“Nationz Foundation is excited to partner with the Valentine Museum during the Voices exhibit!” said Nationz Foundation Executive Director Zakia McKensey. “It is extremely important to get tested. Knowing your status is one sure way to prevent the spread of the infection. We will be on site providing Rapid HIV testing for free, so please stop by and get your results in 60 seconds.”


Voices from Richmond’s Hidden Epidemic will be on display through May 25, 2020.



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ReRunner Clothing Drive at Quirk

A chance to help others and declutter your closet all this week at Quirk.



The good folks at Quirk Hotel (201 W Broad Street) are hosting a clothing drive this week.

From Jan. 20-26, people can drop off their gently used clothing and shoes to the Quirk hotel lobby, and they will get 10% discount at Maple & Pine and ReRunner. As an added bonus tonight Wednesday, January 22nd, from 4-6 pm there will be a Happy Hour at Quirk for people to drop off clothes, mingle and a portion of drinks will go to benefit Goodwill.



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