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Hills & Heights

Must-See RVA! — Church of the Sacred Heart

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

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March 2020
  • AKA, Sacred Heart Catholic Church
  • 1401 Perry Street
  • Built, 1901
  • Architect, Joseph Hubert McGuire
  • VDHR 127-0859-0244

That other Sacred Heart, in ol’ Manchester.

[FAM] — Bishop James Gibbons

[FAM] — Bishop James Gibbons

In 1876 Bishop James Gibbons purchased a tract at Fourteenth and Perry Streets. There were forty to fifty Catholic families in Manchester and norther Chesterfield County at this time. Most worshipped in Richmond at St. Peter’s Cathedral on Grace Street or at St. Mary’s Church on Marshall Street. In 1897 a new school was built next to the Fourteenth and Perry Street property.

March 2020 — Ida Mary Barry Ryan, AKA Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan

March 2020 — Ida Mary Barry Ryan, AKA Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan

About this time the wealthy Mrs. Thomas Fortune Ryan of New York offered to build a church at Fourteenth and Perry Streets and a school across the street. She requested that the school be named Sacred Heart. The church was so named, and also the school. [OME]

(Find A Grave) — Thomas Fortune Ryan

(Find A Grave) — Thomas Fortune Ryan

What the lady wants, the lady gets. But let’s back the bus up.

The church and school that shaped leaders of the Catholic community in southside Virginia are significant because of their association with Thomas Fortune Ryan and his wife Ida Mary Barry Ryan. Ryan, a native Virginian, noted financier and patron of the arts, donated more than twenty million dollars to Roman Catholic causes throughout his life.

That includes funding the construction of a new Catholic cathedral across from Monroe Park.

That project would break ground in 1903, two years after Church of the Sacred Heart, and when finished in 1906, the new cathedral would supplant St. Peter’s as the seat of the diocese.

It would also be called Sacred Heart and would be designed by the same architect, but the version on Perry Street came first.

March 2020 — showing front elevation

March 2020 — showing front elevation

The two churches could not be more different stylistically. One is an Italian Renaissance Revival masterpiece; the other, an ode to red brick.

The front elevation (southeast) is divided into three primary sections with narrow lancet-style windows flanking the central section, and a corner tower to the southeast. There are three rectangular windows above the belt course in the central section separated from the elaborate Roman arch window by decorative circle and square brickwork.

March 2020 — showing arched fenestration

March 2020 — showing arched fenestration

Roman arched fenestration is typical throughout the Church of the Sacred Heart with the exception of the three rectangular windows mentioned above. A corbel table at the roofline frames the elaborate round-arched stained-glass window on the front facade. The corner tower has a granite foundation and steps leading to arched doorcases with double-leaf doors capped by fanlights and frontons, or pediments supported by large paired brackets.

March 2020 — showing recessed brick panel

March 2020 — showing recessed brick panel

Recessed brick panels with corbel tables, an open attic with columns and balustrade, and a pyramidal roof with flared eaves complete the tower. Clear delineation of the bays by the use of pilasters and brick corbelling, use of circle and square motifs and overall visual hints of the underlying skeletal structure, all suggest an Ecole des BeauxArts influence in the design.

March 2020 — showing eight-panel doors, fanlight and fronton

March 2020 — showing eight-panel doors, fanlight and fronton

The Church of the Sacred Heart is entered through six-panel doors, surmounted by fanlights and frontons, on the southeast and northeast facades of the corner tower. Square coffers in the ceiling of the tower and west porch entries, simple geometric patterns in the stained-glass windows, plain unadorned walls as well as the circle and square motif in the gallery balustrade reflect the Renaissance Revival style on the church interior.

(Sacred Heart Catholic Church) — showing Roman arch and altars

(Sacred Heart Catholic Church) — showing Roman arch and altars

A Roman arch, once flanked by altars on both sides, separates the apse from the nave. The Roman arch, echoed down the nave by the hammer-beam ceiling, is used to further delineate each bay.

(Sacred Heart Catholic Church) — showing rose window

(Sacred Heart Catholic Church) — showing rose window

The arched window in the southeast facade is mirrored in the apse end by a stained-glass rose window above the altar. The elevated framed arched windows that line the nave, and the Doric-style columns with brackets in the manner of the Badia di Fiesole all enhance the Renaissance character of this building.

March 2020

March 2020

The church is a testament to the power of a single patron. The church and school that shaped leaders of the Catholic community in southside Virginia are significant because of their association with Thomas Fortune Ryan and his wife Ida Mary Barry Ryan. (VDHR)

March 2020 — showing twenty-panel door

March 2020 — showing twenty-panel door

It’s also a thing of beauty, easy for the casual commuter to miss as they cruise down Perry Street. If this is you, dear reader, you owe it to yourself to take a moment and check it out yourself.

As for the disconnect between the Department of Historic Resources’s count of the door panels and what actually hangs on hinges today, the only conclusion to draw is that they must have been replaced sometime after the church joined the historic registry in 2002.

(Church of the Sacred Heart is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [FAM] Famous Living Americans. Edited, Mary Griffin Web & Edna Lenore Webb. 1915.
  • [OME] Old Manchester & its Environs, 1769 – 1910. Benjamin B. Weisinger III. 1993.

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Drink Beer and Help Friends of James River Parks

Raging James Pilsner is the latest release from Legend Brewing and a portion of each sale will got to Friends of James River Park.

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Friends of James River Park announced their latest partnership today and it’s tasty.

Legend Brewing Company is the oldest operating craft brewery in Virginia. As their Vice President of Operations, Dave Gott, told us, “It’s important that you be a part of the community – not just IN the community.” Legend has hosted our board meetings and annual get-togethers. On any given weekend (and often any given day) their parking lot is full of cars carrying kayaks and bicycles, and their patio is crowded with people who have spent the day enjoying the James River Park System.

Given their proximity to the James River and our Park, we were elated when they floated the idea of creating a special beer for our organization. Raging James Pilsner is their newest release, and a portion of the sale of each can will help us continue our efforts. Legend has supported Richmond for almost 30 years, and as we approach 50 years of commitment to the Park, we’re honored to partner with them on this.

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How to move a snapping turtle across the road and why.

You’re most likely to see a female Snapping Turtle on the road crossing to find a good dry spot to lay her eggs.

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Snapping Turtles are one of the scariest and coolest looking critters you can run across in the Richmond area. Unfortunately many times you’ll see them on the road and that is not a good spot for a Snapping Turtle or any turtle to be. It’s egg-laying season so female Snapping Turtles are on the move and crossing roads. Snappers travel long distances away from water to search for a nest site on dry land.

NEVER pick up a Snapping Turtle by its tail because doing so can cause spinal injury. Gloves are recommended when available. Always move turtles in the direction they were headed and do not relocate.

Snapping Turtle populations have declined significantly in recent years due to over-harvesting, poaching, and poor reproductive success.Snapping Turtles don’t reach maturity until 6 to 7 years of age and female turtles lay a single clutch of 26 to 55 eggs once a year. There is a high nest failure rate, with most of the eggs eaten by predators resulting in only 6 to 9 percent of hatchlings surviving.

If you can here is how to safely move a snapping turtle.

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Suspect Sought in McDonough Street Shooting

Today at approximately 2:43 p.m. RPD officers responded to the 900 block of McDonough Street for the report of shots fired. Officers arrived and located two adult males down with apparent gunshot wounds.

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From RPD

Today at approximately 2:43 p.m. RPD officers responded to the 900 block of McDonough Street for the report of shots fired. Officers arrived and located two adult males down with apparent gunshot wounds. One of the victim’s injuries are considered life threatening.

They were both transported to a local hospital for treatment.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact

Major Crimes Detective C. Tovar at (804)-646-6739 or Crime Stoppers at

(804) 780-1000. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones also may be used. All Crime Stoppers reporting methods are anonymous.

From other reports we’re hearing a bartender and a customer at Ironclad Pizza were the victims.

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