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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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Combining protean forces from the forbidden Zero Serum with the unbridled power of atomic fusion, to better probe the Wisdom of the Ancients and their Forgotten Culture.

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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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Community

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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Downtown

Bill to strike Lee-Jackson Day, make Election Day state holiday advances in General Assembly

Virginia lawmakers have advanced Senate bills that make voting easier, including not requiring an excuse to vote absentee and recognizing Election Day as a state holiday.

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By Zach Armstrong

Virginia lawmakers have advanced Senate bills that make voting easier, including not requiring an excuse to vote absentee and recognizing Election Day as a state holiday. Other legislation that would extend citizen access to voting — part of the 11-point “Virginia 2020 plan” put forward by Gov. Northam — has yet to clear committees.

Senate Bill 601 designates Election Day as a state holiday to give more citizens the chance to cast their ballot. The bill also would strike from current law Lee-Jackson Day, which celebrates the birthdays of Confederate generals. The legislation, introduced by Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, passed the Senate Tuesday.

“Even on Election Day, people have to go to work, people have to handle childcare, people have to go to class and often it can be hard to make it to the polls,” said Del. Ibraheem Samirah, D-Herndon. “It just makes sense that those folks should be given the opportunity to come out and vote in a time window that works for them.”

A bill that removes the need for an excuse to cast an absentee ballot passed the Senate Monday. SB 111, introduced by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, permits any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot in any election in which he is qualified to vote.

Several other bills that facilitate ease of absentee voting are SB 46, removing the requirement that a person applying for an absentee ballot provide a reason to receive the ballot; SB 455, extending the deadline when military and overseas absentee ballots can be received; SB 617, authorizing localities to create voter satellite offices to support absentee voting; and SB 859, making absentee voting easier for people who have been hospitalized.

Legislation in the House includes a bill that would also allow for no excuse absentee voting, automatic voter registration and same-day voter registration. In the Senate, a bill would pre-register teens 16 years old and older to vote and one bill in the House would reduce the period of time registration records must be closed before an election. All House bills are in an Elections subcommittee.

“Restrictive voting provisions almost always disproportionately affects people of color and low-income individuals because those are the groups that move more frequently, work multiple jobs and have less spare time,” said Jenny Glass, director of advocacy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia.

The House and Senate also introduced bills that would remove requirements that voters present a photo ID when voting. Under the legislation, voters can show voter registration documents, bank statements, paychecks or any government document that shows the name and address of the voter. Neither bill has made it past committee.

Virginians currently must present a photo ID, such as a driver’s license or a U.S. passport, to vote in person. According to a 2012 study by Project Vote, an organization that works to ensure all Americans can vote, approximately 7% of the U.S. population lacks photo ID. This is especially true of  lower-income individuals, those under the age of 20 and ethnic minorities.

Voters can provide their social security number and other information to get a free Virginia Voter Photo Identification Card, but some legislators said that service is unknown to many.

“Before the photo ID requirement voters had to sign the affidavit to say they are who they say they are, and I think that was enough,” said House Majority Leader Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria. “I feel the photo ID was a way to suppress the vote because not everyone has one.”

Former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell signed SB 1256 into law mandating voters have a form of ID with a photograph. Virginia is one of the 18 states with such voting requirements, according to the National Conference of Legislature.

In 2016, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ID requirement after attorneys for the state Democratic Party challenged the law, arguing it had a disproportionate impact on low income and minority voters.

“People are fed up with our overly restrictive and racist voting policies, and the legislature is finally getting rid of some of the biggest roadblocks to progressive reform,” said Glass. “This has been a long time coming.”

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