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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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Hurry in a Curry to be First Friday Food Truck at Westover Place

Planning your weekly dinner menus just got another option.

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The folks at Westover Place, the strip of stores between The Forest and 48 Hours, will be hosting a rotating food truck every Friday. It will be a single truck and this week is one of my favorites.

Curry in a Hurry will be parked in front of the former “Stories” location (5065 Forest Hill Ave) on Friday (4/3) from 4 – 7 PM. If you’re looking for a little variety or an excuse to take a walk on Friday now you’ve got a good reason. The menu might be a little different for Friday but this is the standard menu.

Never had Curry in a Hurry? This is what owner Barry Hodge has to say about his offerings.

Well, here we are, this is my passion – curry, not just any curry, but British Indian curry. I have been eating this food since I was 5, I have been making this delightful food since I was 15 and now feel it’s time to share the delights of British Indian Curry with the good people of Richmond.

Over the past 60 years it has become the #1 take-away food in England and is now regarded as the “national dish”. Ask anyone you may know who comes from England what they most miss apart from the pubs, they may well tell you it’s the curry. What makes this style of curry any different from any other curry?  Its hard to say, but much has to do with the fresh ingredients, the exotic spices, the aromatic flavors and of course (if desired), the mouth tingling taste!

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Westover Hills Elementary Teachers and Staff to “Parade” Through the Neighborhood

Don’t call the cops this parade will be from the safe distance of their autos and there will be no direct contact with any students.

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Friday don’t be surprised if you see a long line of cars snaking through your neighborhood. It’s just local teachers and staff saying goodbye for now to their students.

From Westover Hills Elementary:

Teachers and staff are going to PARADE all through our school’s zone tomorrow morning to say “Hi” and “Goodbye” 😢 to students at their homes from the responsible distance of their cars. They expect to be in our neighborhoods from about 9:20-11:00 AM. If you are home (like you should be!), step out on the porch and give a wave and a “thank you” (and don’t freak out if you see a whole bunch of cars driving slowly through the neighborhood in a long line)”.

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South of the James Farmers Market will be a Drive-thru Farmers Market this Saturday

Drive-Thru Market on Saturday, March 28th, 9 am – 1 pm. Pre-orders ONLY. Customers will not leave vehicles.

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There will be a Drive-thru South of the James Market on Saturday, March 28th, from 9 AM to 1 PM. There are some very important rules to follow for this to work. Pre-orders only from the specific vendor. Those vendors might have some of their own rules, follow them. Customers will not leave their cars. Reach out to the specific vendor for what they have and place your pre-order.

For this to work there can’t be cars just cruising the vendors to see what they can buy. Pre-order from the vendors directly. Most vendors are posting what they’ll have and how to pre-order at the South of the James Farmers Market Facebook.

It will be interesting to see how this works out with keeping traffic flowing and how many cars show up. I’m sure greater minds than I have a plan in place. There will be some hiccups, be patient, you will get your bread and salsa.

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