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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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Library of Virginia Literary Awards Winners Announced

Cottom, Tilghman, and Kingsley are the 2020 recipients honored by the Library of Virginia.

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The Library of Virginia is pleased to announce the winners of the 23rd Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards, which were held virtually this year. Sponsored by Dominion Energy, the October 17 awards celebration was hosted by best-selling author and award-winning filmmaker Adriana Trigiani. Awards categories were nonfiction, fiction, and poetry; People’s Choice Awards for fiction and nonfiction; and Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award. Winners in each category receive a monetary prize and a handsome engraved crystal book.

Tressie McMIllan Cottom Photo provided by Library of Virginia

The winner of the 2020 Literary Award for Nonfiction is Tressie McMIllan Cottom for her book Thick: And Other Essays.

“The provocative and brilliant chapters hold a mirror to the soul of America in painfully honest and gloriously affirming explorations of contemporary culture,” wrote the award judges. “Streetwise and erudite, Cottom explodes the myth that the ‘personal essay’ is the only genre in mainstream publishing and journalism open for public commentary by female writers of color.”

Cottom, who has just been named a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, is a recipient of the Doris Entwisle Award of the American Sociological Association for her scholarship on inequality, work, higher education, and technology. In addition to Thick, she is the author of Lower Ed and her work has been featured by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, PBS, NPR, Fresh Air, and The Daily Show, among others. She recently left Richmond, where she had been an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, for a position at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

The other finalists for the nonfiction prize were Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis for Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America and Mary M. Lane for Hitler’s Last Hostages: Looted Art and the Soul of the Third Reich.

Chris Tilghman Photo Credit: Susan Kalergis

Christopher Tilghman won the 2020 Emyl Jenkins Sexton Literary Award for Fiction for his book Thomas and Beal in the Midi. “This lushly written novel follows an interracial American couple in a family saga after they emigrate to escape bigotry in 1892,” wrote the award judges. “Its evocative descriptions of fin de siècle France and skillfully drawn characters add up to a sensitive and satisfying portrait of a marriage.”

Tilghman is the author of two short-story collections, In a Father’s Place and The Way People Run, and three previous novels, Mason’s Retreat, The Right-Hand Shore, and Roads of the Heart. He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia and lives with his wife, the novelist Caroline Preston, in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in Centreville, Maryland.

The other finalists for the fiction award were Angie Kim for Miracle Creek and Tara Laskowski for One Night Gone.

Naka-Hasebe Kingsley Photo provided by Library of Virginia

Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley is the winner of the Poetry Award this year for his book Colonize Me, which explores the experience of living as a Native American in today’s America. “The poems emerge from overlapping histories of violence and struggle not as fractured identity but as integrated multiplicity” wrote the award judges. “Kingsley uses form and language to indict the micro and macro aggressions of colonization with irony, heartbreak, and joy.”

An Affrilachian author and Kundiman alum, Kingsley is a recipient of the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and Tickner Fellowships. His is also the author of Not Your Mama’s Melting Pot (2018) and Dēmos (coming in 2021). He is an assistant professor of English in Old Dominion University’s MFA program.

The other finalists for the poetry award were Lauren K. Alleyne for Honeyfish and David Huddle for My Surly Heart.

Philip J. Deloria Photo Credit: Jim Harrison

The Art in Literature: The Mary Lynn Kotz Award went to Philip J. Deloria for his book Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract. In Becoming Mary Sully, Deloria reclaims the artist’s work from obscurity, exploring her stunning portfolio through the lenses of modernism, industrial design, Dakota women’s aesthetics, mental health, ethnography and anthropology, primitivism, and the American Indian politics of the 1930s. Presented by the Library and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Art in Literature Award recognizes an outstanding book published in the previous year that is written primarily in response to a work (or works) of art while also showing the highest literary quality as a creative or scholarly work. This unique award, established in 2013, is named in honor of Mary Lynn Kotz, author of the award-winning biography Rauschenberg: Art and Life.

The winners of the People’s Choice Awards are The Substitution Order by Martin Clark in the fiction category and Mary Ball Washington: The Untold Story of George Washington’s Mother by Craig Shirley in the nonfiction category. Winners are chosen by online voting.

“The Substitution Order mixes legal expertise and wry humor in a story rich with atmosphere, memorable characters, and surprises right up to the end,” wrote the judges about the novel by Martin Clark, who is a circuit court judge in Patrick County, Virginia.

“Craig Shirley’s sprightly biography suggests that George Washington’s first fight for independence was from his controlling, singular mother—a resilient widow who singlehandedly raised six children on a large farm,” wrote the judges about Mary Ball Washington. Shirley is an author and public affairs consultant who splits his time between homes on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster County and a 300-year-old Georgian manor house in Tappahannock, Virginia.

The evening’s featured speaker was Douglas Brinkley, who was honored for his outstanding contributions to American history and literature as an award-winning, best-selling author and U.S. presidential historian. In addition to our presenting sponsor, Dominion Energy, the Literary Awards were made possible by Liz and Preston Bryant Jr., Christian & Barton LLP, MercerTrigiani, Anna Moser and Peter Schwartz, Kathy and Steve Rogers, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Carole and Marcus Weinstein, Weinstein Properties, and the Library of Virginia Foundation.

Next year’s Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration will be held on October 16, 2021.

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Downtown

Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

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By Sam Fowler

Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly special session.

Juneteenth marks the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery. The companion bills were introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Del. Lamont Bagby, D-Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the legislation on Oct. 13.

“Juneteenth is the oldest celebration of the end of slavery in the United States,” Northam said during a press conference held that day. “It’s time we elevate this, not just a celebration by and for some Virginia, but one acknowledged and celebrated by all of us.”

Del. Joshua Cole, D-Fredericksburg, introduced a bill in the legislative session earlier this year to recognize Juneteenth, but the proposal didn’t advance.

Northam proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday in June during a press conference that included musician and Virginia-native Pharrell Williams. Northam signed an executive order that gave executive branch employees and state colleges the day off. Some Virginia localities, such as Richmond and several places in Hampton Roads, also observed the holiday this year.

“I think it is overdue that the Commonwealth formally honor and celebrate the emancipation and end of slavery,” Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg, a co-patron of the bill, said in an email. “It was a step towards fulfilling the promise of equality contained in our founding documents.”

The Elegba Folklore Society, a Richmond-based organization focused on promoting African culture, history and arts, is one of the groups that has been celebrating the holiday for decades. The celebration usually is a three-day weekend event that looks at the history of Juneteenth. A torch-lit walk down the Trail of Enslaved Africans in Richmond is also held, said Janine Bell, the society’s president and artistic director.

“We take time to just say thank you to our ancestors, their contributions, their forfeitures, their trials and tribulations,” Bell said. “We invite people to Richmond’s African burial ground so that we can go there and pay homage from a perspective of African spirituality.”

Juneteenth should not be used as another holiday to look for bargains in stores, Bell said. It should be a time for reflection about liberty, as well as for celebration and family strengthening.

“It’s a time for optimism and joy,” Bell said.

The Elegba Folklore Society broadcasted its Juneteenth event online this year due to the coronavirus. Although there were still around 7,000 views, Bell said that it is usually much larger and has international influence.

Cries for police reform and social justice continue to increase, Bell said. More attention is being drawn to the racial disparities across America. With this, people have been changing their priorities concerning issues such as discrimination.

“This was a step towards equity,” Bell said about the bill. “A symbolic step, but a step nonetheless.”

State workers will be off during Juneteenth. If the job requires individuals to come in to work, then they will be compensated with overtime or extra pay, said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, a patron for the bill.

The General Assembly wrapped up the agenda last week for the special session that began Aug. 18. Northam called the session to update the state budget and to address criminal and social justice reform and issues related to COVID-19.

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Community

Suspect Sought in Theft from Broad Street Building

It’s not stated by RPD but based on Tweets earlier this week we believe this is Mayor Stoney’s re-election headquarters.

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From RPD:

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the individual in the attached photos who is suspected of stealing from a building on West Broad Street on Monday.

During the early morning hours on Monday, October 12, the suspect entered the building in the 2600 block of W. Broad Street and stole a large television from the common area. The suspect was last seen heading west on Broad Street with the TV.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Fourth Precinct Detective K.L.  Robinson at (804) 646-6820 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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