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RVA Legends — Dispatch Building

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

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[RVCJ93] — Dispatch Building, circa 1893

920-922 East Main Street
Built, after 1865
Demolished, 1962

One of the three.

(Find A Grave) — James A. Cowardin

(Find A Grave) — James A. Cowardin

Richmond supports three daily newspapers: the “Dispatch” and the “Times,” morning issues, and the “State,” an afternoon paper. The Richmond Dispatch is the oldest of the Richmond dailies. It was founded by James A. Cowardin and W. H. Davis, both practical printers, in 1850. Its first appearance was made on the morning of October 19th, of that year. The paper was well received from the beginning, and rapidly attained a good circulation.

(Newspapers.com) — the slightly creepy, Illuminati-inspired logo of the Richmond Enquirer — from the Friday, September 16, 1842 edition

(Newspapers.com) — the slightly creepy, Illuminati-inspired logo of the Richmond Enquirer — from the Friday, September 16, 1842 edition

Owing, however, to the competition of the Whig and the Enquirer, the great political dailies of Richmond at that day, it was not immediately successful as an advertising medium. This fact discouraged Mr. Davis, and in a few months he disposed of his interest to Mr. Cowardin. For some years thereafter the Dispatch was published in the names of James A. Cowardin as proprietor, and Hugh R. Pleasants, editor. The latter was employed as editor when the partnership of Cowardin & Davis was formed.

[CDRVA] — Old Dominion Steamship Company advertisement in Chataigne’s 1881 Directory of Richmond

[CDRVA] — Old Dominion Steamship Company advertisement in Chataigne’s 1881 Directory of Richmond

When success’ at length became a certainty, its plant was moved from the orignal building, on Governor street, just above Main, to the building corner of Thirteenth and Main streets, the site of the present Old Dominion Steamship offices. Here the Dispatch was comfortably housed, and was equipped with the best outfit obtainable at that period. Just in the rear of its place was the “Dispatch Job Office” of J. D. Hammersley & Co. Mr. Hammersley managed the counting-room of the paper, and during the war acquired a half interest in it.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 7 — showing the former location of the Dispatch Building

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 7 — showing the former location of the Dispatch Building

Mr. Oliver P. Baldwin succeeded Mr. Pleasants as editor, though, at one time, both were upon the editorial staff; and Mr. Cowardin also contributed to the editorial columns when his other engagements permitted. During the war the outfit of the Dispatch was worn completely out, and as a new one could not be procured inside the Confederate lines, Mr. Hammersley undertook to run the blockade to England, and supply what was needed. Before sailing, however, he sold half his interest to Mr. James W. Llewellen, who had long been the local editor of the Dispatch.

(Essential Civil War Curriculum) — Harper’s Weekly illustration — The Union Blockade of the Southern States by Robert M. Browning, Jr.

(Essential Civil War Curriculum) — Harper’s Weekly illustration — The Union Blockade of the Southern States by Robert M. Browning, Jr.

Mr. Hammersley was successful in his undertaking to the extent of getting the new outfit through the blockade and into the Dispatch building, but before it could be used it was destroyed, along with the building, in the Evacuation fire, April 3, 1865.

(Find A Grave) — Henry Keeling Ellyson, newspaperman & principal figure in the 1870 Municipal War

(Find A Grave) — Henry Keeling Ellyson, newspaperman & principal figure in the 1870 Municipal War

It was not until the December following that the Dispatch was revived. Mr. Cowardin and Mr. H. K. Ellyson formed a copartnership, (which continued uninterruptedly* until the former’s death) and began anew in the building on Thirteenth street, just in the rear of the present offices of the Postal Telegraph Company. There were seven competitors in the field when the Dispatch was re-established; but by enterprise and good management it forged rapidly to the front again, and is now, in every respect, fulfilling its mission as a first-class newspaper. It has the largest circulation of any paper between Baltimore and New Orleans, and its columns bear ample testimony to the value it has in the opinion of the advertising public.

(Yesteryear Once More) — advertisement for the R. Hoe & Co. printing press

(Yesteryear Once More) — advertisement for the R. Hoe & Co. printing press

In the matter of its mechanical equipment the Dispatch has always been advanced. In November, 1887, it put in a Hoe perfecting press with a capacity of 24,000 copies an hour, and its outfit, from press-room to composing-room, is a model of completeness. It has its own press wire running into the building, a full editorial and local staff, its resident correspondent at Washington, and special correspondents at all important points in Virginia and North Carolina. It issues a Daily and a Weekly, its Sunday edition eighteen or twelve pages, as occasion may require.

(Find A Grave) — William Dallas Chesterman

(Find A Grave) — William Dallas Chesterman

In 1882, a short time before the death of Mr. Cowardin, the copartnership of Cowardin & Ellyson was dissolved and a joint stock company was formed with the former owners as principal officers. The present officers of the Company are: C. O’B. Cowardin, president; H. Theo. Ellyson, secretary and treasurer; W. D. Chesterman, vice-president.

July 2019 — looking towards 920-922 East Main Street

July 2019 — looking towards 920-922 East Main Street

By 1900, the Dispatch was owned by John L. Williams, who also owned the Richmond News. The end of the Gilded Age was a time of consolidation, and Williams, along with Joseph Bryan, owner of the Richmond Times and Manchester Leader, concluded that there were too many newspapers to go around for the available circulation. The Times and the Dispatch were merged in 1903 to become the Richmond Times-Dispatch that we have today.

[MCR] — shaded areas showing Evacuation Fire destruction & future location of the Dispatch Building

[MCR] — shaded areas showing Evacuation Fire destruction & future location of the Dispatch Building

The block on which the Dispatch Building stood was reduced to ashes by the ever-popular Evacuation Fire, and it would be erected in the post-war construction boom that remade the city landscape. It met its doom in 1962 when an addition to the State Planter’s Bank was built, creating today’s Pocahontas Building.

(The Dispatch Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [CDRVA] Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, Va. J. H. Chataigne. 1881.
  • [MCR] Map of the City of Richmond, Virginia, 1861-65. Richmond Civil War Centennial Committee. 1961. Library of Virginia.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

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Mayor Stoney names members of “Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

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Today Mayor Levar Stoney announced the members of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and outlined his primary requests of the diverse group of professionals. The majority of task force members stood with the mayor for the announcement.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

The members of the task force bring an array of perspectives from activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, emergency services, artistic, healthcare, and other fields. At the close of a 45-day period, the task force will bring the mayor a set of actionable steps forward to build a safer city for all.

“After additional conversations and review of actions taken in other cities, I do not believe we can wait to begin acting on reform recommendations,” said Mayor Stoney. “I have asked this task force to report back with initial recommendations within 45 days of their first meeting.”

The mayor established three foundational requests of the task force: reviewing the police department’s use of force policies, exploring an approach to public safety that uses a human services lens, and prioritizing community healing and engagement.

“We need a new process for noncriminal and nonviolent calls for service, and that will be a top priority for this task force,” noted the mayor. “We must center compassion instead of consequences.”

Regarding community healing and engagement, the mayor said that the task force will allow the city to explore methods of engagement that will enable meaningful change, using his support for the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus’ legislative package as an example.

“Last month I expressed my support for the VBLC’s package for the summer session,” said Mayor Stoney. “This task force can determine where the city can explore complementary legislation and where we need to focus community advocacy to make statewide change a reality.”

Members of the Task Force

Carol Adams, Richmond Police Department
Ram Bhagat,
 Manager of School Culture and Climate Strategy for RPS

Glenwood Burley, retired RPD officer

Keisha Cummings, community engagement specialist, founder of 2LOVE LLC, member of the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project and the Richmond Peace Team

Torey Edmonds, Community Outreach Coordinator at VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development

Professor Daryl Fraser, VCU School of Social Work professor and licensed clinical social worker

Triston Harris, Black Lives Matters organizer and organizer of the 5,000 Man March Against Racism

Birdie Hairston Jamison, former district court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Virginia

Councilman Mike Jones

Shanel Lewis, Youth Violence Prevention Specialist at the Richmond City Health District

Brandon Lovee, Richmond artist and advocate, member of the Richmond Peace Team

Colette McEachin, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney

Reverend Dontae McCutchen, Love Cathedral Community Church

Dr. Lisa Moon, Associate Provost at VCU and former Director of the Center for the Study of the Urban Child

Sergeant Brad Nixon, RPD

Tracy Paner, Public Defender for the City of Richmond

Bill Pantele, Richmond attorney and former City Council Member

Professor William Pelfrey, VCU professor with expertise in emergency preparedness and policing

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson

Rodney Robinson, National Teacher of the Year and teacher at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center

Patrice Shelton, Community Health Worker in Hillside Court and director of the Hillside Court Partnership

Lashawnda Singleton, President of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Sheba Williams, Executive Director of NoLef Turns

Courtney Winston, Richmond trial attorney

The Mayor’s Office is specifically working with the Office of Community Wealth Building’s Community Ambassadors to identify additional community members, including youth, to be part of the task force’s important work and to assist with community engagement.

The task force is committed to a transparent process and will make meeting minutes available to the public.

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Richmond Then and Now: 114 E. Broad Street

A then and now snapshot of Richmond.

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Original Image from Souvenir views: Negro enterprises & residences, Richmond, Va.
Created / Published[Richmond, D. A. Ferguson, 1907]

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Library of Virginia reopens to researchers by advance appointment beginning today

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm.

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The Library of Virginia has announced that its reading rooms will reopen to researchers by advance appointment beginning at 10:00 am on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

During the initial reopening phase, researchers will be able to use the collections by appointment Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–4:00 pm. To make an appointment, please call 804.692.3800.

COVID-19, which prompted the Library’s closing to the public in mid-March, continues to pose a serious public health risk. The Library’s reopening plan includes new health and safety protocols based on the latest guidance from the Governor’s Office, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What to expect when returning to the Library:

  • Appointments required to use the reading rooms in order to ensure space availability on a researcher’s preferred date
  • Signage describing coronavirus symptoms – Please do not enter the building if you feel unwell or have a fever
  • Face coverings required in the building at all times
  • Physical distancing of six feet required in all public spaces
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer available for the public
  • Frequent cleaning of restrooms and surfaces in public areas throughout the day
  • Returned books quarantined for three days before being available for use again
  • The Exhibition Gallery, the Virginia Shop, our conference rooms, and the reading room at the State Records Center will remain closed

For additional information about what to expect on your visit, take a look at the COVID-19 Update: Guidelines for Researchers, page, which will be updated regularly.

For more on how to use the collections, click here.

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