- 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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…
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]
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)
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)
- [CCO] Chesterfield County, Early Architecture and Historic Sites Jeffrey M. O’Dell. 1983.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
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Coronavirus Support List
An ongoing list of resources and businesses that are helping the Richmond community in this time of crisis.
- The Virginia Department of Health has a wealth of resources and an ongoing list of those tested and infected.
- COVID-19 Educational Materials from Washington State in English, Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Marshallese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese. From the Washington State Department of Health. via @leahraemullis on Twitter.
- The staff at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences has created an excellent resource directory with reliable information about the outbreak.
- Words matter. Deliberate use of names for COVID-19 like Chinese virus or Chinese Coronavirus is racist and irresponsible—it only spreads stigma and fear, and increases the violent xenophobic attacks on the Asian American community. (Joint statement from the Asian Americans Advancing Justice affiliation: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles)
Social distancing is the term used to describe certain actions recommended by health officials to disrupt the chain of contagion in a pandemic. This involves steps such as: keeping 3-6 feet from others, avoiding public gatherings, and limiting face to face contact with others.
- Richmond Public Schools has begun meal distribution for ALL RPS families that starts today, Monday, March 16th. Please visit one of our food distribution sites 9:30 am-12:30 pm to receive shelf sustainable food for your family during the break! Sites will be open Monday-Friday.
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In these stressful times we’re doing our best to help make it through this. We along with all our restaurant & retail partners are taking necessary precautions. We’ll bring it to you so you can get some comfort while you stay home. We are also still offering custom orders where we’ll carry practically anything. Need some fresh produce, we got you. Need your prescription picked up, we can do that too. Remember, keep it local, keep it quick. www.quicknessrva.com [email protected] @rostovscoffee @821cafe @bighermskitchen @branchvinerva @deeprunroadhouse @frescaonaddison @goatocado @j_kogi @kftearichmond @liftcoffee @nile_rva @saltandforge @soultacorva @stickyricerva @stumpspigandpint @thenakedonionrva @thesavorygrain @unionmarketrva @rumorsboutique #rvaeats #rvadine #fooddeliveryservice #deliveryservice
- Tara Casey @legal_lou on Twitter is putting together the wonderful # list. 11 different organizations (including school districts) need help in many different ways. Highlight: donations welcome via drive-thru drop-off or Amazon shipping. Please help if you can. # docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d…
- Chesterfield Public Schools will provide free meals to students ages 18 years & younger while the division is closed due to COVID-19.
- Ram Pantry will provide pre-packed boxes of food to students in need beginning Wednesday, March 18 at 1 p.m. through Friday, March 20, at 3 p.m. until current supplies last. Ram Pantry will be closed for operations after Friday, March 20, until further notice. More info here.
- Stores with special hours for seniors. (Credit to NBC12 for the updated list)
- Big Lots is reserving the first operating hour of each day for senior citizens and people who are the most vulnerable to the virus.
- BJ’s Wholesale Club is opening one hour early at 8 a.m. for members who are ages 60 and older.
- Dollar General is adjusting operating hours for older customers.
- Fresh Market is opening stores from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. for seniors and those most at risk for coronavirus.
- Publix has senior shopping hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Publix pharmacies will open early at 7 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
- Target will close at 9 p.m. to restock and clean stores. They also announced dedicated shopping hours for team members and their families.
- Whole Foods stores are open an hour early for customers 60+. Customers should check their local store’s website for specific hours.
- The Market at 25th in Richmond will open for senior citizens from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Other customers can shop from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Trader Joe’s is reserving the first operating hour of its day for senior citizens. Stores will also have an extra line for seniors outside its front door for a quicker entrance.
- Walgreens is open early for seniors on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Customers 55 years and older will receive special discounts on Tuesdays.
- Walmart is open from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. On Tuesdays until April 28, stores will have an hour-long senior shopping event for customers aged 60 and older, one hour before the store opens.
- Your local actors, designers, producers, technicians, stage managers, musicians, composers, choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, craft artists, teaching artists, dancers, writers & playwrights, photographers, etc. will also be impacted by the downturn in business. This page is an excellent resource for those freelance workers.
- Artists Resource Page by Studio Two Three.
- Greater Richmond Continuum (GRCoC) is providing emergency shelter alternatives and coordinated plans to aid the homeless in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
The GRCoC partners need donations to meet the needs of the homeless population:
– $10 gift cards for gas stations and food for shelter residents and unsheltered individuals;
– Cleaning supplies, including soap, hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol, tissues, trash masks, and disposable face masks;
– Canned food; and
– Bus tickets for residents.
- Richmond Public School Update 3/17/20
- Visual Arts Center is offering a way to nurture your creative spirit without leaving home this week? Our friend Michael-Birch Pierce is this month’s Creative Mornings speaker and registration just opened online! The event will be hosted 100% digitally this Friday, March 20, and it will explore the theme of identity. Michael-Birch Pierce is a fiber artist and fashion designer who has embroidered portraits at the Oscars, the Super Bowl, Design/Miami, SXSW, and even embroidered Christmas decorations for the Obama White House. Read more and shop their work at michaelbirchpierce.com. More info here.
- Scholastic set up a ‘Learn From Home’ website with four categories: PreK and Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2, Grades 3-5, and Grades 6+. Each section is already equipped with one week of content for students with 15 additional days on the way.
- Comcast is offering free internet for low income families. Go to InternetEssentials.com or call 855-846-8376 for English or call 855-765-6995 for Spanish. All new customers will receive “a free self-install kit” with no shipping fee.
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems! (free video series) ✏📚 Join the Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence at Home as Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every weekday at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing—starting today, March 16th. Learn more kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems
- Compiled list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings amazingeducationalresources.com
- List of coloring books/pages from museums from around the world. Some are experiencing difficulty due to heavy traffic.
- Richmond Public Schools learning resources (English and Spanish) can be found at https://www.rpstech.org/parents.html and https://www.rpstech.org/ell.html.
- Virginia Museum of History & Culture offering FREE Online Resources and Digital Programming
- VPM.org/resources is a hub for news, educational materials and entertainment for our audience. There you’ll find links to:
Continuing local news coverage from VPM News
Access to the VPM PBS KIDS 24/7 channel video stream (also available for free, over the air)
Educational games from PBS KIDS, plus a daily newsletter for parents
VPM PBS Learning Media platform for educators and caregivers of pre-K – 12 students
Plus easy access to the VPM Music stream, Passport video streaming platform and television guide to keep audiences engaged and connected
- Richmond’s LGBTQ Chamber is offering a Relief Fund available in Mid April to members of the Chamber experiencing personal and/or financial hardship. If you find yourself in need please email them at [email protected] Funds are limited so they ask if you can to please donate to the Relief Fund and help other business owners and professionals in the community.
- @ is compiling a running list of livestreams by musicians from around the world, categorized by date and genre trib.al/g5hu23W
- Richmond Grid is hosting Virtual Happy Hour featuring live house performances by RVA’s favorite local musicians. Check on Facebook for next show.
Downtown Rush Hour During COVID-19
Just a few shots from downtown at 8 AM on a Friday but most definitely not a normal Friday.
Fox Elementary Teacher Train Coming to a Street Near You Today
Fox teachers and staff are driving through the area to say hello and goodbye to their students. Give them so love back.
Fox teachers are driving through the district to say hello to their students. Show them how much y’all miss and appreciate them. Make a poster, wave, give a virtual high-five from a safe distance to cheer them on.