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Must-See RVA! — Bellwood

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

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(VDHR) — Bellwood manor house — 1978 nomination photo

AKA, Auburn Chase, New Oxford, Sheffields, & Defense Supply Center Richmond Officers’ Club-Building 42
8000 Jefferson Davis Highway
Built, circa 1804
VDHR 020-0007

The former Auburn Chase plantation house is a characteristic example of the finely proportioned dwellings erected during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to serve as residences of Virginia planters.

(Find A Grave) — Mr. & Mrs. James Bellwood

(Find A Grave) — Mr. & Mrs. James Bellwood

Known originally as Sheffields and later as Auburn Chase, Bellwood was a working plantation from 1619 to 1941, except for a twelve year period following the Great Massacre of 1622. The Sheffield family was killed during the massacre, and when the area was pacified the property was acquired by the Gregory family. The Gregorys built the present dwelling house around 1790; nothing is known of the preceding houses. The existing structure is a characteristic example of the wooden, Georgian style architecture favored by most Virginia planters during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Although it has been subjected to later modifications, its architectural integrity has not been significantly diluted.

(Library of Congress) — Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, Bellwood — May 15, 1862

(Library of Congress) — Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, Bellwood — May 15, 1862

In addition to the Great Massacre, Bellwood has been the scene of battles in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. In the latter conflict it was occupted by Union troops. The owner of the property during that period was Major Drewry, who had married into the Gregory family. Drewry later traded the plantation for Westover in Charles City County. In 1887 the house and farmlands were acquired by James Bellwood, who gave the place its present name. Bellwood restored the depleted land and made the farm one of Virginia’s chief agricultural showplaces.

(California State Library) — Souvenir Views of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition — 1915

(California State Library) — Souvenir Views of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition — 1915

Bellwood products represented Virginia at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco and won fourteen gold and silver medals as well as the outstanding exhibit award for excellence in competition with international exhibits. From 1900 through the 1930s Bellwood was visited by agriculturists from throughout the world, and its reputation remains even today. A remnant of the Bellwood family’s interest in nature is the elk herd, still cared for on the grounds.

(Google Maps) — Defense Supply Center Richmond Officers’ Club-Building 42, showing the original manor house portion

(Google Maps) — Defense Supply Center Richmond Officers’ Club-Building 42, showing the original manor house portion

In 1941 Bellwood was acquired by the U.S. Government and is now the Defense General Supply Center. The house is maintained as the center’s officers’ club.

The plan of the house is the basic center-passage plan with a room on each side. Although the interior is now used as an officers’ club, much of the early fabric is intact. This includes pine flooring, paneled doors, the stair, and most of the door and window frames. A handsome Adam-style mantel and paneled dado survive in one of the first-floor rooms. A long, one-story wing has been added to the rear in modern times to accommodate the club’s service areas.

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) — elks at the Bellwood preserve

(Richmond Times-Dispatch) — elks at the Bellwood preserve

The house is located just inside the main gates of the supply center. Although most of the farmland is now occupied by the complex’s many buildings, the house retains a pleasant setting. It is situated on a slight rise, surrounded by cedars, oaks, and lawn. A paved, curved drive leads to the portico. Adjacent to the house are twenty-one acres of pasture kept for the maintenance of a herd of seven American elk, descendants of two elk brought to the property by James Bellwood around 1900. (VDHR)

Bellwood was added to the Chesterfield County historic register in 1978, and the good news is that since that time, the elk are still there! The photo above comes from a July 19, 2015 article in the Times-Dispatch on the subject. Good to know that some things stay the same.

March 2017 — DSCR Operations Building

March 2017 — DSCR Operations Building

The less good news is that there is no way, no how, for the public to see Bellwood. It may be on the National Register, but it’s also on a military base. A request made to the DSCR Public Affairs Office yielded the response we don’t authorize people to come on the installation to take pictures. So this post does not have a picture of what Bellwood looks like today, beyond the Google Maps aerial photo.

It’s understandable, even laudable, that DSCR doesn’t want to compromise security by opening the floodgates; having civilians roaming all over the campus sounds like a problem waiting to happen. However, buildings listed on the registry benefit from tax credits in most cases, so you would think there would be some way they could provide limited public viewing while restricting access to other areas of the base.

March 2017 — Bellwood Flea Market, 9201 Jefferson Davis Highway

March 2017 — Bellwood Flea Market, 9201 Jefferson Davis Highway

However, you can still the effects of Bellwood Plantation on the surrounding area, reflected in a number of Bellwood-named businesses. Aside from the Flea Market above, there is a Bellwood Credit Union, and a Bellwood Campground, Bellwood Terrace Apartments, not to mention the inevitable Bellwood Road.

(Bellwood is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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Suspects Sought in Commercial Burglary on Forest Hill Avenue

At approximately 12:10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, officers responded to the S&K Mini Mart in the 3400 block of Forest Hill Avenue for a burglary alarm that had just gone off. Once on scene, police found the front glass window smashed in.

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From RPD:

At approximately 12:10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, officers responded to the S&K Mini Mart in the 3400 block of Forest Hill Avenue for a burglary alarm that had just gone off. Once on scene, police found the front glass window smashed in.

Security video shows the two adult male suspects using a lead pipe to break the window and get inside the business. They went directly behind the counter and stole cigarettes and money. The suspects left the same way they came in.

Anyone with information about the identity of these suspects is asked to call Second Precinct Detective J. Thondique at (804) 646-8170 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

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Artist Keith Ramsey Uses his Welder to Help Healthcare Workers

People are pitching in to help fight COVID-19. Local artist Keith Ramsey was able to pivot his skills in an amazing way.

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Keith Ramsey is a multi-talented artist. In addition to fine art painting he also has a more industrial tact with some of his work that uses metal and a welder. It’s because of this background and his generous nature that the following story is not surprising in the least.

In Keith’s own words:

Last Monday someone contacted me with an issue. They needed a welder to help put together @12+ racks for a medical facility to help sterilize much needed medical supplies to help with the influx of COVID19 patients to come.

I had projects already in the workshop, but before he could get halfway into asking if I could help, It was already a hard “YES.”

After about a week of straight 9-hour days and more welding in a short amount of time I have ever done, we got the racks out the door!

The thing about that is, I was proud to be able to do something… anything, I could do to help in this crisis our nation, and the world, is facing. It was a small part by comparison to what others are doing and sacrificing, but it was what I personally could do with the resources I had.

I believe THAT’S how we are going to beat COVID19 back. Everyone doing what they can, when they can to help out. Because, as we all know, this thing doesn’t care about who you are, who you vote for, where you’re from and what you look like.

And we need to be the same way to combat this.
That’s my two cents. #metalsupermarkets #ramseyartworks

You can check Keith’s work at Ramsey Art Works.

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Lane Closure for Paving on Forest Hill Avenue

Due to reduced traffic in the area listed above, construction work on the ongoing Forest Hill Avenue Improvement Project will start earlier and end later each day.

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Lane Closure – Forest Hill Avenue
WHO: City of Richmond Department of Public Works (https://twitter.com/DPW_RichmondVA)

WHAT: Lane Closure

WHEN: Monday, April 6 through Wednesday, June 10 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
WHERE: Forest Hill Avenue between Hathaway Road and Powhite Parkway (located in the 4th voter district)
BACKGROUND: Due to reduced traffic in the area listed above, construction work on the ongoing Forest Hill Avenue Improvement Project will start earlier and end later each day.

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The City of Richmond Department of Public Works (DPW) is one of only 146 accredited public works agencies in the United States. DPW’s portfolio comprises a wide array of services to include leaf collection; street, sidewalk and alley maintenance; trash collection; recycling; urban forestry; signs; signals and pavement markings; grass cutting; graffiti removal; and parking. In addition, DPW issues permits for working in the city’s right-of-way, manages City bridges, implements street and traffic Capital Projects, manages Richmond’s Bike Share program and maintains the fleet of city vehicles. DPW’s operating budget comes from the general fund of the City of Richmond. For more information about DPW services, click here or call 3-1-1.

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