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Photos: Pet Expo

Over 50 exhibitors and more dogs than you could wave a stick at attended the 20th Annual Pet Expo this past Saturday.

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La Milpa Food Truck Stolen

If you see the food truck pictured please contact the police

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Over the weekend one of the best Mexican restaurants in Richmond, La Milpa, had their food truck stolen. If you’ve seen the food truck notify the police as quickly as possible. The world needs every taco truck don’t let the bad guy deny us tacos.

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Must-See RVA! — Bellgrade Plantation

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

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February 2020
  • AKA Belvidere, Bellgrade, Alandale, Allandale, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • 11500 West Huguenot Road
  • Built, 1732, 1824

The centerpiece of one of Chesterfield’s most notorious murders. PG-13!

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

Belgrade, known in the late nineteenth century as “Belvidere” and renamed “Alandale” in the early part of this century, features an unusual plan and a unique medley of roof types. Situated off Robious Road southwest of Bon Air, the house occupies a large open tract surrounded by rapidly expanding residential and commercial development.

February 2020

February 2020

Originally a one- or 1 ½-story hall-parlor house, Belgrade was expanded to its present form in 1824. In that year, Edward Cox conveyed the property to Edward O. Friend, and assessed buildings rose in value from $482 to $1,939. This increase reflects a complete transformation of the original dwelling from a hall-parlor structure to a large dwelling composed of a two-story, side-passage-plan main block flanked by matching 1-story one-room-plan wings.

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

The hipped gambrel roof covering each of the two wings is unusual, and Belgrade provides the latest recorded example in Virginia of this rare roof type. Another unusual feature is the apparently original 1-story lean-to at the west end of the building. The primary purpose of this eight-foot wide unit appears to have been to house a stair (similar in form and coeval to that in the main block) permitting separate interior and exterior access to the upper chamber of the south wing.

February 2020

February 2020

The present interior trim, varying only slightly among the various rooms on both floors, dates entirely to ca. 1824. The mantel in the main block consists of a simple architrave surround capped by a molded shelf with punch-and-dentil band. The mantels in each of the wings are nearly identical, featuring a raised-panel surround capped by a molded shelf. Upstairs mantels date from the same period, and feature plain architrave surrounds with simple molded shelves.

February 2020 — showing end of original construction at center-right, and the start of new construction at far-right

February 2020 — showing end of original construction at center-right, and the start of new construction at far-right

Two coeval staircases serve the house; both are of closed-string, straight-run form with rectangular balusters, square newel with molded cap, and molded rail. The stair in the main block is of unusual configuration: it divides at a narrow landing against the rear wall, where short flights lead respectively to chambers over the main block and north wing. The stair in the lean-to, which makes a turn about three-quarters of the way up, barely allows headroom at the upper landing.

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — 1978

Originally, matching dependencies flanked the house. A one-story, two-room-plan frame kitchen with center chimney stood seventy feet to the south of the house, while an office of similar form stood at an equal distance from the north end of the dwelling. Both were in a deteriorated state in the 1920s and were demolished. The only surviving early outbuilding is a frame gable-roofed smokehouse standing a few yards southwest of the house.

February 2020 — showing original construction at center, new construction at far left

February 2020 — showing original construction at center, new construction at far left

The earliest traced owner of the property was Edward Cox, who in 1824 sold the house and 515 acres to Edward O. Friend for $5,000. Friend, the son of Joseph Friend and grandson of Edward Friend (d. 1806), lived there until his death in 1838, when the property passed to his widow, Matilda E. Burfoot Friend. She remarried and sold the farm two years later to Anthony T. Robiou, who lived there until his death in 1851.

(Old Stocks) — Richmond and Danville Railroad Company 100 share stock certificate

(Old Stocks) — Richmond and Danville Railroad Company 100 share stock certificate

Robious Crossing, where the new Richmond and Danville Railroad line intersected Huguenot Road, was named for the then-current owner of the farm. Robiou is best remembered in Chesterfield County history, however, as the man whose murder precipitated one of the most publicized court trials in nineteenth century Virginia.

(Wikipedia) — Black Heath

(Wikipedia) — Black Heath

The episode began when Robiou filed a divorce suit against his young wife (who was only fourteen at the time of her wedding) charging her with infidelity. [CCO]

Apparently, it wasn’t a “maybe-she-is” situation. Robiou caught them mid-schtupp, still cracking the plaster, and took offense.

John S. Wormley, the girl’s father, along with John Reid, her allegedly adulterous suitor, waylaid Robiou on the road to Black Heath Pits (today’s Robious Road) and gunned him down. [CCO]

(Fineart America) — Infidelity, 18th Century art print by Granger

(Fineart America) — Infidelity, 18th Century art print by Granger

Imagine Robiou’s last moments contemplating the unfairness of it all. “My wife Emily cheats on me and I get whacked for complaining?” ‘Course the Wormley family was old and established, so it must have been a matter of honor perhaps for (rightfully) slandering the family name. At least he has a street named for him.

Both men were taken into custody shortly thereafter, and Wormley, a prosperous planter and lawyer, was found guilty at a trial held at Chesterfield Court House in October, 1851. A mistrial was later declared, however, on the grounds that the jurors had been treated to drinks beforehand by the deputy sheriff and county clerk. [CCO]

*hic… innnoshent, yer Honor…

(Executed Today) — scene of a 19th-century hanging

(Executed Today) — scene of a 19th-century hanging

Over a year later, a jury summoned from Richmond and Petersburg because of the local notoriety of the case sentenced Wormley to death. A week later, a crowd of 4,000 persons watched the 42-year-old man hanged at Chesterfield Courthouse. Reid, meanwhile, had been tried and acquitted, and before the hanging married the young widow whose husband he had been accused of murdering. [CCO]

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — Belgrade Foyer, 1978

(Chesterfield County Public Library) — Jeffrey O’Dell Research Papers Collection — Belgrade Foyer, 1978

Of course, this all ends happily. Two weeks after her father’s hanging, Mrs. Emily Reid took a tumble down the front steps and perished. Poetic justice.

There are two accounts of how she died. One account is that she fell on a sewing basket and scissors punctured her heart. The other account is that she broke her neck. Since this tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young bride roaming the boxwood gardens behind the home. (Ruth’s Chris)

(Library of Congress) — Map of Chesterfield County, Va. — J. E. LaPrade, 1888 — Belgrade identified as Belvidere, right at the intersection of Robious and the Richmond and Danville Railroad

(Library of Congress) — Map of Chesterfield County, Va. — J. E. LaPrade, 1888 — Belgrade identified as Belvidere, right at the intersection of Robious and the Richmond and Danville Railroad

In 1851, the year of the first trial, Randolph Ammonett purchased the property from the trustees of Robiou’s estate for $2,025. Ammonett lived at Belgrade until his death in 1889. In his will, he directed that “an iron railing about 10 feet square be erected around the graves of myself and my deceased wife, J. J. Ammonett.” This fence still stands in the back yard, although there are no inscribed stones to identify the graves of either Amonett or his wife. [CCO]

Since then the place has been called Belvidere, Alandale, Allandale, and Bellgrade, the nom-de-plume that Ruth’s Chris prefers. Jeff O’Dell calls it Belgrade, and who are we to argue with an architectural historian?

Mary Wingfield Scott would not have approved with Ruth’s Chris’s alterations, but the steak house did end up preserving the original structure, so even if it isn’t on the historic registry, the spirit of the plantation house was preserved.

(Belgrade is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [CCO] Chesterfield County, Early Architecture and Historic Sites Jeffrey M. O’Dell. 1983.

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Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!

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“Field of Dreams'” Dwier Brown coming to the Diamond for Opening Night; Andruw Jones rescheduled

The actor known as John Kinsella in the classic baseball film will help ring in new Flying Squirrels season; Jones is headed to The Diamond on April 21st.

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Actor Dwier Brown, known for his role in the movie “Field of Dreams,” will be a special guest for the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ Opening Night on April 16, the team announced on Friday. Former MLB star Andruw Jones, who was originally announced as an Opening Night guest, has rescheduled his appearance to Tuesday, April 21.

Opening Night with the Flying Squirrels, presented by Virginia Birth Father Registry and Chick-fil-A, will include dueling fireworks to ring in the new season. First pitch between the Flying Squirrels and Bowie Baysox is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. and the ballpark gates open at 5 p.m.

Brown is well-known for his role in the acclaimed baseball film, “Field of Dreams,” in which he portrayed John Kinsella, the father of the film’s main character, Ray Kinsella. The Ohio native also held movie roles in “The Guardian,” “The Cutting Edge” and “Dennis the Menace Strikes Again!” He has also made appearances in television shows, including “ER,” “Firefly” and “House.”

“We look forward to an action-packed first homestand of the 2020 season,” Flying Squirrels VP & COO Todd “Parney” Parnell said. “Having such an iconic character with us on Opening Night will generate great momentum as we strive for our 11th consecutive Opening Night sellout.”

VIP Meet & Greet packages will be available for $40 each beginning Mon., Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. and include access to an exclusive VIP meet & greet with Brown, an all-you-can-eat buffet in the SEGRA Picnic Zone and a Field Level ticket for the Flying Squirrels’ home opener.  Packages can be purchased by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or in-person at the Flying Squirrels’ offices at The Diamond. More information is available here.

The Flying Squirrels’ first 10 home openers have all sold out, including franchise-record crowds of 9,845 fans in each of the last two years. Since the franchise’s first season in 2010, the Flying Squirrels have welcomed a special guest to help open the home schedule at The Diamond. Brown joins the list of sports stars and dignitaries to celebrate the start of the new baseball season in Richmond. Previous guests include:

  • 2019 – Ryan Klesko
  • 2018 – Fred McGriff & Gov. Ralph Northam (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
  • 2017 – David Justice (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
  • 2016 – Jerome Bettis
  • 2015 – Will Wade (caught by Gov. Terry McAuliffe)
  • 2014 – Michael Robinson
  • 2013 – Javy Lopez & Ryan Kerrigan
  • 2012 – Dale Murphy
  • 2011 – James Farrior, Brandon Rozzell & Chris Mooney
  • 2010 – Gov. Bob McDonnell

VIP Meet & Greet Packages for the appearance by five-time NL All-Star Andruw Jones will also go on sale on Mon., Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. Packages cost $50 each an include access to an exclusive VIP meet & greet with Jones, an exclusive Andruw Jones commemorative card, up to two autographs per attendee, an all-you-can-eat buffet in the SEGRA Picnic Zone and a Field Level ticket for the April 21 game. More information is available here.

“Having to move Andruw to Tuesday night gives us an amazing opportunity to celebrate not just Opening Night, but again when Andruw comes on April 21,” Parney said. “The entire first homestand promotional calendar gives us a great opportunity to have our best start in team history.”

Packages can be purchased by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or in person at the Flying Squirrels’ offices at The Diamond.

Fans can also purchase combined VIP Meet & Greet Packages for both Opening Night with Dwier Brown and April 21 with Andruw Jones for $75.Information on group packages for the Flying Squirrels’ home opener on April 16 are available here or by contacting the front office at 804-359-FUNN (3866).

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