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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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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.

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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

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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.

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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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