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Must-See RVA! — Henrico County Courthouse

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

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September 2019

2125 East Main Street
Built, 1896
Architect, Carl Ruehrmund
September 2019

One of three.

[HPR] — covered in ivy in the 1920s

[HPR] — covered in ivy in the 1920s

The Henrico County Courthouse of 1896, which still stands on Main Street, Richmond, is the third court building erected on the site. In 1752, the Henrico Court moved to the new town of Richmond from Varina; the land on which the courthouse was erected was donated by the Cocke family, who retained conditional rights to the property.

[IEAHS] — from a mid-19th century print, showing original courthouse in back

[IEAHS] — from a mid-19th century print, showing original courthouse in back

The County Court continued to meet within the bounds of the City of Richmond until 1975, when it was moved to new facilities on Parham Road in western Henrico.

September 2019 — detail of east tower roof

September 2019 — detail of east tower roof

The first courthouse at this site was a simple brick building which is said to have served as the model for the still-standing Albemarle County courthouse of 1764. It was from the steps of this original building that the Declaration of Independence was first publically proclaimed in Richmond on August 5, 1776; the Virginia Gazette reported that most of the town’s 1000 citizens were present at the event, and that they reacted to the reading with “universal shouts of joy.”

September 2019

September 2019

Five years later British soldiers invaded Virginia’s new capital and in the process destroyed many of the Henrico court records, including most of those dating prior to 1677, The courthouse itself, however, managed to escape serious damage.

September 2019

September 2019

In 1824 the first courthouse was much in need of repairs, and a committee decided to rebuild rather than repair it. Samuel Sublette was engaged to design the building, and by November, 1825, it was ready for use.

September 2019

September 2019

This brick structure, which measured 70 by 46 feet, was distinguished by its pedimented portico, three-piece front windows, and flanking doors surmounted by elliptical fanlights.

September 2019 — detail of windows and parapet facing Twenty-Second Street

September 2019 — detail of windows and parapet facing Twenty-Second Street

In the 19th century, the governmental activities of County and City were more closely intertwined than they are today. Prior to the Civil War, all deeds to property in the City of Richmond were recorded in the Henrico clerk’s office, and all inhabitants of the City obtained their marriage licenses from the County clerk.

September 2019 — granite entryway facing Twenty-Second Street

September 2019 — granite entryway facing Twenty-Second Street

In the 1840s the courthouse was moved from its original location in the middle of what is now 22nd street, in order to open that street to traffic. The 1824 building underwent extensive damage during the great Evacuation Fire of 1865, but was subsequently repaired, and served the County until the present 3 ½ story red brick and granite structure replaced it in 1896.

September 2019 — doorway & window, west side of building

September 2019 — doorway & window, west side of building

The building, with its recessed front entry and highly-articulated facades, is a late and rather freely-interpreted example of the Romanesque Revival. A distinctive local landmark, it is one of the few examples of the style remaining in the Richmond area, and it will hopefully be preserved. [IEAHS]

(Find A Grave) — architect Carl August Ruehrmund & family

(Find A Grave) — architect Carl August Ruehrmund & family

The 1896 courthouse was designed by Carl Ruehrmund, a German-born architect who studied architecture at the Royal Academy in Berlin before immigrating to America in 1881. In 1882 he was living in Richmond and working with Albert Lybrock, another famous Richmond architect, on additions to the Customs House. According to Robert Winthrop, he “may well be Richmond’s most important little known architect” who would design “an impressive number of buildings, including houses, commercial structures, churches and public buildings” throughout his long career. (Architecture Richmond)

September 2019

September 2019

Today, the building is conjoined with a house at 2117 East Main Street, and the entire structure is owned by a real estate investment company, Zimmerman Inc. Aside from two mannequins displayed in the first-floor window facing the intersection of Main and Twenty-Second it appears little used, but in otherwise good condition for its age.

Surprisingly, this building is not on the Richmond Historic Registry, which seems a shame.

(Henrico County Courthouse is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [HPR] Historic Photos of Richmond.Emily J. & John S. Salmon. 2007.
  • [IEAHS] Inventory of Early Architecture and Historic Sites, County of Henrico. Jeffrey Marshall O’Dell.1976, 1978.

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ACLU urges release of some nonviolent offenders to combat coronavirus spread

As the coronavirus begins to hit correctional facilities, groups are calling for the release of nonviolent inmates to help prevent outbreaks. 

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By Rodney Robinson

As the coronavirus hits correctional facilities, the ACLU is calling for the release of some nonviolent inmates to help prevent outbreaks and keep residents and staff safe.

The Virginia ACLU submitted a letter to the governor, along with the executive guidance document. The document focuses on reducing the overall populations in local and state custodial facilities, including reducing the intake of people. The organization called for an immediate release of all people identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as at-risk for COVID-19, such as older people and people with underlying health conditions, whose sentences would end in the next two years. The ACLU also wants the governor to begin a process of immediate release for anyone whose sentence would end in the next year, anyway.

There are a limited number of eligible parole cases that can be reviewed for early release, according to Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran, who said at a press conference Monday that an expeditious review is “still ongoing.”

“There are a number of challenges because by the code we have no parole in the commonwealth of Virginia,” Moran said. “It is limited to geriatric release and limited to those who are sentenced before 1996.”

Moran said the parole board has withdrawn warrants on technical violations for a number of individuals and has expedited release of parole for those already paroled, in effort to eliminate interaction between the parole supervisor and the individual.

 Three inmates at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections. One inmate at the Central Virginia Correctional Unit 13 for women has tested positive for COVID-19, according to VADOC. Four VADOC employees and one contractor have also tested positive for the virus. As of April 3, the Virginia Department of Health reports 2,012 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 46 deaths. From March 27 to April 3, 1,552 cases were confirmed, or 77% of all cases since the state’s first case was reported on March 7.

 “We need strong leadership that will move us more quickly toward a criminal legal system that is safe for everyone,” ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastañaga said in a press release. “To do this, we must jettison the ‘tough on crime’ hyperbole and recognize this pandemic as an opportunity to rethink the way we choose to use the criminal legal system to address issues of poverty, income inequality and addiction.”

Almost two weeks ago the governor announced measures to battle the coronavirus outbreak among residents and staff, such as modifying sentences, diverting offenders from serving jail terms, utilizing home electronic monitoring and reducing low-risk individuals being held without bail.

Elliott B. Bender, founder of Bender Law Group in Richmond and president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that the governor’s measures are great in theory “for the safety of all of us.” However, he is concerned that they are not being implemented consistently and completely. Consistency and getting all branches of government on the same page are important in this process, according to Bender.

Moran said state code mandates the victims involved need to be notified of a prisoner’s potential early release.

“And you have to provide victims time to weigh in on the decision,” Moran said. “And that is an ongoing process as well.”

To combat the virus, visitation and volunteer activities remain closed at correctional facilities, according to the VADOC. People entering VADOC correctional facilities will be screened using thermometers. In addition, the department ordered 112,000 additional bars of soap. Virginia Correctional Enterprises, which employs incarcerated people to produce a variety of goods, is now manufacturing about 30,000 sneeze and cough guard masks per day for inmates and staff, according to VADOC. All employees must assess their risk on a daily basis prior to work.

 Also, there are measures taken to ensure safety once a person leaves a VADOC facility. All inmates leaving a correctional facility are screened for COVID-19 on the day of their release, according to  VADOC.

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Business

City of Richmond announces Small Business Disaster Loan Program

The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

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The Richmond Economic Development Authority on Thursday created the Richmond Small Business Disaster Loan Program (COVID-19), which will offer interest-free emergency loans of up to $20,000 to small businesses within city limits.

The program is intended to provide relief to small businesses that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Monies will go toward paying employee wages, empowering local, small businesses to continue operating and keep employees on their payroll.

“Small businesses have made Richmond the thriving cultural capital we love,” said Mayor Stoney. “They’ve been understanding, patient and selfless in adapting to the recent social distancing guidance, no matter the economic consequences for them. This loan program is one way we can help provide some relief and support in this tough time.”

The maximum loan amount for the program is six months of current employee wages or $20,000, whichever is less. Loan payments will be disbursed over six months.

Repayment of the loans will be deferred for six months, followed by 48 months of no-interest payments.

Small businesses interested in applying should fill out the application and provide the required documentation via email. The application will be available starting Monday, April 6.

Funding is limited. Applications will be considered in the order they are submitted.

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Downtown

Schools, nonprofits hustle to feed over a half million Virginia students: ‘It’s incredible’

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need. More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still fighting to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia with free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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By Hannah Eason

Richmond school bus driver Tyrone McBride is still driving a big, yellow bus through Richmond neighborhoods, but these days, he’s transporting boxes of food for kids in need.

“It gets me out of the house,” said McBride, who has been a school bus driver for 18 years, “and you know, you’re doing a great deed and helping people out.”

More than a week has passed since Gov. Ralph Northam announced students will not return to school this academic year, and volunteers are still working to feed the 590,000 children in Virginia eligible for free or reduced lunches who were ordered to remain home during the coronavirus pandemic. Schools have been closed since March 16, though students were originally slated to return by March 27.

Whitcomb Court resident Simone Sanders said her children are now eating at home during the day, but she didn’t receive an increase in food stamps. One child is disabled, which prevents Sanders from being able to work.

“It’s affecting us bad, especially in the projects, and there’s nothing for the kids to do all day,” Sanders said. “And then you have to worry about your child just being outside getting shot.”

Sanders said she’s grateful for the food from Richmond Public Schools, and says she occasionally gives food to neighborhood kids who say they’re hungry.

The Richmond Public Schools meal distribution program, like others around the state, continues to evolve during the coronavirus pandemic that caused a surge of Virginians to file for unemployment. Almost 46,300 Virginians filed for unemployment between March 15 and March 21. The previous week 2,706 people filed an unemployment claim, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

The program started with 10 school sites, and has since grown into at least 43 sites throughout the community and 10 school sites.

Erin Stanley, director of family engagement at Richmond Public Schools, said volunteers, bus drivers and the district’s nutrition staff have made the efforts possible. Volunteers were using personal vehicles to drop off food, but RPS decided that school buses would better suit the cause.

“We did that for a couple of reasons,” Stanley said. “One, so we can get more food out, and two, because school buses are a bit more well known and probably more trusted than individual volunteers going in with their personal vehicles.”

Plastic bags filled with milk cartons, sandwiches, apples and snacks are handed out in neighborhoods found on the Richmond Public Schools’ website. School distribution sites are open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and neighborhood times vary by location. Any student in the school district can use the program, Stanley said.

Volunteer Natalie Newfield said many families she gave meals to lost jobs in the restaurant industry.

 “They’re changing the way they do deliveries, which is amazing,” Newfield said. “Every day you give them a count. If they need more food, the next day, all of a sudden your bus has more food. It’s incredible.”

Statewide efforts to feed children in Virginia

When schools closed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture activated the Summer Meals Program, which funds public schools and local organizations to serve breakfast and lunch during the summer.

Del. Danica Roem, D-Prince William, pressed the USDA to change its policy which required parents to have their child with them when picking up food.

Roem said it was difficult for a Prince William County mother to access food for her two children. Her daughter has an immune system deficiency caused by recent cancer treatments, making her susceptible to the COVID-19 virus.

“When you’re talking about a 7-year-old with cancer, we have to really evaluate what is it that our policy is trying to prevent that is more important than feeding a child with cancer,” Roem said.

Roem said she was able to bring groceries to the family, who live in the representative’s district. As they carried bags of food inside, Roem said the mother told her children, “We’re eating tonight.”

“I fought with the USDA for a full week and won a major, major victory for kids throughout Virginia and across the country, and especially immunocompromised kids, to make sure that they stay safe, that they stay home,” Roem said.

The USDA waived the restriction last week, and states can now choose to waive the in-person policy for students to receive food.

No Kid Hungry, a national campaign launched by nonprofit Share Our Strength, is offering emergency grants to local school divisions and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The grants can help people who are trying to make meal distribution possible, but may lack the equipment necessary to feed children outside of a school setting.

Sarah Steely, senior program manager at No Kid Hungry Virginia, said the grants can fund necessities like vehicles, gas, coolers and equipment to keep food safe during distribution.

“Those might not be resources that folks already have, because those aren’t service models that were expected of them before,” Steely said, “so we’re here to support community organizations and school divisions as they figure out what it is they need to distribute to kids.”

The organization works with YMCAs, childcare centers, libraries and all 133 of Virginia’s public school divisions.

The organization recently activated their texting hotline for those unsure of where their next meal is coming from: text “FOOD” to 877-877. The hotline is generally used during the summer months, but was reactivated to combat food insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steely called the hotline “a tool in a bigger toolbox of resources” and encouraged families to contact their local school board for updated information about their locality.

“They count on that as a primary source of nutrition, so with schools closed, we want to make sure that the students who are accessing meals at school are now accessing those meals at home,” Steely said.

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