“First, What kind of life was lived in this place, that is, Why and how did its builders build as they did?
And second, what rules with general validity and applicability did they follow?”
Carroll William Westfall, Learning From Pompeii.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


The Union Hotel, Main at Nineteenth
streets, built in 1817 to the
designs of Otis Manson.
This is the second part of a series on the Taverns and Hotels of Richmond. The first part is found here. The demand on the part of travelers and visitors for food and overnight lodging has usually been met by the provision of rooms (or beds) rented by the night in buildings provided by private enterprise, unless capital for that purpose exceeded local resources. In that case, institutions or individual landowners would provide guest lodging.  Over time, the building types that served travelers changed in response to changing levels of prosperity and demand.  The American luxury hotel, typified by Richmonds Jefferson Hotel of 1895, had its origins in the early nineteenth-century taverns and hotels financed by merchants and developers to ease travel, promote business interests, and answer civic and social needs.

This new building type appeared in Richmond in 1817.  The Union Hotel, located at Main and Nineteenth streets, was built for Dr. John Adams and designed by architect Otis Manson, who was associated on at least one project with architect Robert Mills (he and Mills prepared plans for a new Richmond City Jail that wasnt built at about the same time [Records of the Common Hall, 17 March 1817]). It represented a more architecturally sophisticated response to the demand for overnight accommodations, the first to rise above the primitive level of inns and taverns [Scott]. 

The Union Hotel from Charles H. Corey, A History of Richmond Theological Seminary. Richmond VA: Union University, 1895. Probably originally part of hotel promotional literature.
Its architectural form responded to the development of the first-class hotel as a civic amenity in major American cities. The most notable example of the new hotel was the Exchange Coffee House in Boston, a remarkable seven-story structure, designed by architect Asher Benjamin, that provided 300 rooms, banquet halls, and other public amenities. Its destruction by fire [in 1818] was a civic calamity [Daniel Boorstin, The Americans, 1966, 136].

The Exchange Coffee House in Boston [Wikipedia].
Like the Boston building, the Union Hotel featured an applied exterior architectural treatment and unprecedented height. Dr. John Adams must have intended that the new Richmond hotel serve a similar role in the city. The row of tall windows on the main floor suggests two entertaining rooms on the interior.   Manson provided the four-story hotel with a tall piano nobile with arch-headed floor-length windows that was topped by a two-story row of applied Doric half columns fronting the bedroom floors. The walls, stuccoed to resemble stone, were terminated in a pattern book Doric entablature featuring carved paterae between the triglyphs. The building was sheltered under a shallow hipped roof with a balustraded deck. A three-story wing stood to the rear. The cupola in the advertising lithograph shown above was probably added by the artist to improve the view, which was intended to show how large the building was.
Detail of the Union Hotel's cornice, 1865.

The Union Hotel in the period immediately after the Civil War [VCU archive]. Like many earlier taverns, it featured a wide portico across the front.
As Bryan Clark Green has observed, Richmond hotels, beginning with the Union Hotel, had about a twenty-year life-span before they appeared outmoded [NR form, Ninth Street Office Building]. By the early 1840s, when the Exchange Hotel was built, equipped with toilets, central heat, and running water, the Union Hotel was no longer fashionable. Although it was returned to use as a hotel, it was rented as the site of the predecessor of the Medical College of Virginia when the school was opened in 1838. It was used as barracks in 1847 during the Mexican-American War, but was back in operation in 1850, when it was visited by President Zachary Taylor [Christian]. It was purchased in 1870 by the trustees of the Richmond Institute, forerunner of Virginia Union University, as the colleges main academic building. In much the same way, the Exchange was replaced in favor by the Spottswood Hotel, new in 1859-60 and the favorite of Confederate politicians and officers.

In spite of the ostensible twenty-year rule, the ancient Eagle Tavern maintained its superlative reputation for decades, even in competition with newer hostelries. In 1825, Lafayettes dinner at the Eagle Tavern was matched by one at the newer Union Hotel. John Tyler was entertained at the Union Hotel in 1827 (and again in 1836), but John Randolph was feted at the Eagle in 1827 and the Washington birthday ball was held there in 1832. The Eagle, by this time known as a hotel, burned in 1839 [Christian]. No image survives of this popular place of entertainment. According to one source, a popular song in Richmond during the antebellum period included the lines I dined at the Union, got drunk at the Bell, and lost all my money at the Eagle Hotel [John K. Trammell. Travelers to War-time Richmond, Americas Civil War, Sept 1996, http://www.historynet.com/travelers-to-wartime-richmond-sept-96-americas-civil-war-feature.htm].

Exchange Hotel with the second bridge to the Ballard House.

The elevation of the Exchange Hotel can be seen in this 1845 Virginia Mutual policy at the top and the central courtyard can be seen in the 1851 Virginia Mutual policy below.

The cupola of the Exchange Hotel can be seen seen here from the west in a detail from an 1865 panorama [center right, Library of Congress].
The Exchange Bank opened in June 1841 and the new Exchange Hotel the next month. The name Exchange is a clue to the buildings proposed use by merchants and dealers to further their business. It was built near the tobacco warehouses at the foot of Shockoe Hill for a stock company of Richmond businessmen. Their intention was to encourage commerce by providing visitors to the city with a luxurious and even palatial hotel. After that date, most entertainments were held at the Exchange, including one for Charles Dickens in the following year [Christian]. The front was ornamented with four colossal, engaged, Ionic columns supporting a massive entablature and flaked by tall narrow, bow-fronted bays. The building was topped by a cupola resembling a circular Roman temple. The interior featured marble floors, a large vestibule ornamented with statuary, a great hall, a ladies dining room, a gentlemens drawing rooms, a dining room accommodating 300, reading rooms, and a ballroom, all surrounding a landscaped central courtyard [Bryan Clark Green et al, Lost Virginia: Vanished Architecture of the Old Dominion, 2001: 175].

The St. Charles Hotel can be seen to the far left and the Exchange Hotel to the right in this 1860s panorama of the city looking west from Church Hill.


Byrds Warehouse, site of the Exchange Hotel, in 1835. The trapezoidal site became available after the warehouse burned. Like the warehouse, the hotel was well placed at the foot of the hill between the lower commercial city and the upper capitol.

The Exchange Hotel and Ballard House seen on the 1876 Beers Map. The central courtyard of the Exchange was improved with paths and a central element such as a fountain.

The Exchange Hotel represented a new version of the first-class hotel taking shape in most of the nations major cities. Beginning with Isaiah Rogers Tremont House of 1827-30 in Boston, American hotels borrowed from the monumental forms of  public buildings.  The Tremont House gave an unmistakable impression of elegance and public purpose, for which the Greek-revival orders, stylish in that day, were, of course, admirably suited. . . [and] confirmed a feeling as different as possible from that of the 18th-centry inn [Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The National Experience, 1966] Rogers Astor House in New York (1832-36), Jacques Bussière de Pouillys St. Louis Hotel in New Orleans (1838), and C.H. Reichardts Charleston Hotel (1839) had extensive reception rooms, fully expressed orders, and central rotundas [Pevsner, Building Types, 175-76]. These were comfortable, even palatial, buildings that employed the architectural orders on both the interior and exterior to create a sense of grandeur and importance for the commercial and social transactions that took place within. 

When Alexander Macay, an English lawyer, visited New Orleans in 1846-47, he remarked that with us hotels are regarded as purely private property, and it is seldom that, in their appearance, the stand out from the mass of private houses around them. In America they are looked upon much more in the light of public concerns, and generally assume in their exterior the character of public buildings. Daniel Boorstin observed that lacking a royal palace as a center of Society, Americans created their counterpart in the community hotel. The Peoples Palace was a building constructed with the extravagant optimism expressly to serve all who could pay the price. . . . From the early days of the 19th century, hotels were social centers. . . . The hotel lobby, like the outer rooms of a royal palace, became a loitering place, a headquarters of gossip, a vantage point for a glimpse of the great, the rich, and the powerful [Boorstin, 1966, 135].

The Ballard House was built across the street from the Exchange Hotel in 1855-56 [1865, LOC].

The five-story Ballard House was built by hotelier John P. Ballard in 1855-56 as a more modern hotel across the street from the Exchange Hotel, which Ballard had purchased in 1851. As can be seen in the photograph from just after the end of the Civil War, the Ballard was a plain tripartite building which relied on the shapes and details of the fenestration to enliven the facade.  Ballard connected the two buildings by a bridge at the second floor level allowing them to share facilities. The first floor of the Exchange was leased out to stores and the cellars were rented for storage. The hotels survived the evacuation fire and were refitted, but were unable to compete with the new Jefferson Hotel after 1895, the Exchange was demolished in 1900 and the Ballard House in 1920 [Virginia Historical Society, A Guide to the Exchange Hotel and Ballard House Records, 1865-1889].  

The main section of the Powhatan House (later Fords Hotel) on Broad Street in the post-Civil War period [Shadows in Silver].

The Powhatan House (later Fords Hotel) seen in a post-Civl War post card, at Eleventh and Broad Streets.http://[mississippiconfederates.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/lines-on-the-back-of-a-confederate-note/]
The Powhatan Boarding House, a four-story brick hotel, fronted on Broad Street north of the Capitol.  It began as a row of commercial structures facing Broad Street and known as Southgates Buildings, which housed shops on the first floor and a boarding house above. In 1831, James McKildoe enlarged Southgates Buildings to make the Powhatan House, which Mary Wingfield Scott says it was the most popular hostelry in the city before the construction of the Exchange Hotel. It was popular with politicians like Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. It was much enlarged over time. When President Millard Filmore visited in 1851, he was put up at what was by then known as the Powhatan Hotel, from which he visited the Constitutional Convention then in session [Christian 173]. In its expanded form, it was later known as Fords Hotel from the 1870s until the early twentieth century [Scott, Old Richmond Neighborhoods, 97]. Like the other taverns and hotels, it featured a wide portico on which guests could watch the activities in the street. The hotel featured a luxurious lobby, dining room, and the usual barroom and barbershop.

Fords Hotel struggled to compete with more modern hotels as time passed. It was closed temporarily for renovations in 1903: from to-day forth the hotel will be known as The Powhatan, a return to its antebellum name. The rates of the renovated and rehabilitated house will be fixed at from 12 to 13 per day, according to accommodations desired. It will be conducted on the American plan. Baths will be put in, everything brightened and renewed and its cuisine and service will be made a feature hereafter [Times Dispatch, 1 October 1903]. The structure was demolished in 1911-12 to be the site of a new city courthouse that was never built [NR form, Ninth Street Office Building and John K. Trammell, "Travelers to wartime Richmond had a wide choice of luxurious hotels, inns and taverns, Civil War Times Sept 1996. http://www.historynet.com/travelers-to-wartime-richmond-sept-96-americas-civil-war-feature.htm].

Many of the hotels of the time are shown on this detail from Ferslewss Map of Richmond (1859) including the Powhatan House , the St. Clair (northwest of the Capitol), the American, the Exchange , the St. Charles , and Union Hotel (in lower right corner).
By 1859, the citys taverns had all been transformed into hotels. Most of these hotels were located in a circuit around the Capitol and few were left in the older part of town east of Shockoe Creek. The citys principal hotels, listed on Ferslews Map of 1859, were as follows:

-The American Hotel (a five-story structure south of the Capitol, at Twelfth and Main, built c 1840). It was rebuilt soon after the war and was later known as the Lexington Hotel. 

-The Exchange Hotel (the hollow square to the right of the center, built 1841)

-The Powhatan House (northeast of the Capitol, 1831)

-The Broad Street Hotel (on the northwest corner of Broad Street and Ninth near the RF&P Railroad Depot)

-The Central Hotel (an enlarged version of the old Washington Tavern west of the Capitol)

-The Columbian Hotel (on the east die of Shockoe Slip)

-The St. Charles Hotel ((labeled City Hotel, southeast of the Exchange, a four-story building at Fifteenth and Main, converted into Confederate Hospital #8, built c 1846)

A view of the American Hotel in 1858 at the corner of Main and Twelfth streets.

The Spottswood Hotel opened just before the Civil War. Seen here in 1865 at the SE corner of Eighth and Main. It burned in 1870 [LOC].

Spottswood Hotel, 1865

Hotels built in the late antebellum years, like the Ballard House, tended to be much less exuberant on the exterior, but even more luxurious and comfortable on the interior.  The new five-story Spottswood Hotel, built at Eighth and Main, was like an elongated version of a Richmond commercial building with no discernable main entry and no colonnade above its cast iron storefronts. Not until 1895, with the opening of the Jefferson Hotel, would Richmond hotels again join civic buildings and churches in employing elaborate architectural detailing. In spite of its plain exterior, when it opened in 1860 the Spottswood Hotel became the citys most popular destination for travelers. Competing against the famous Exchange/Ballard Hotel, it was the favorite hotel for official visitors to the Confederate capital. Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis both took rooms there until permanent homes could be found for them.  

A view of the American Hotel in 1858 at the corner of Main and Twelfth streets.

Immediately after the Civil War, the old hotels were refitted and reopened for business. New hotels, such as the second American Hotel, tended to follow the old patterns with new stylistic flourishes like arched cast iron window heads. 

Not until the 1880s was Richmonds economy recovered sufficiently to think of building a great new hotel to symbolize its joining in the renewed growth of the New South. Lewis Ginter (1824-1897), a extremely wealthy tobacco manufacturer, played the role of civic philanthropist toward the end of his life.  Ginter was a leader in a plan which originated as early as 1882 with the city's chamber of commerce, to construct a modern hotel in the western part of the city, augmenting the superannuated accommodation available downtown [Christian, 1912, 419, 446]. The Exchange Hotel of 1841, and the Ballard Hotel of 1856 undoubtedly appeared to him to be progressive or modern. By 1892 Lewis Ginter had personally taken up the hotel scheme, determined to act as a benefactor and tastemaker to his burgeoning adopted city.  The projects extraordinary scale, complex plan, and high cost suggest that other factors, including the effective boosting of Richmond, outweighed practical profitability among Ginters intentions.

Jefferson Hotel [Department of Historic Resources].
The rectangular site selected by Lewis Ginter for the hotel occupied approximately one-half of a square or block west of downtown Richmond, between Franklin and Main streets, in what had been the city's most fashionable residential neighborhood for many years. The pressure of postwar industry and commerce in the citys old center sparked new construction in the old residential areas to the west. The Franklin Street front was intended from the start to appeal to an elite clientele by its relationships of scale and form to its fashionable residential setting, while the flush Main Street front, which served as an entrance for commercial travelers, responded to the commercial functions located along Main Street and the streetcar line that ran its length.

The Jeffersons Pompeian-style Palm Court with the central statue of Jefferson.

Jefferson Hotel Rotunda before the fire of 1901 that destroyed the south end of the hotel [Cook Collection, Valentine Museum].
The most direct inspiration for the Franklin Street front would seem to have been the Casino at Monte Carlo by Charles Garnier (1878-79). Visitors entering on the Franklin Street front found themselves in a central foyer, called the Marble Hall, detailed in the Doric order. A central archway opposite the entry gave a glimpse of the glazed Palm Court beyond, detailed like a Pompeian peristyle court. A grand staircase led down to a two-story glazed court known as the "Rotunda" or "Office Rotunda" on the lower level which gave access to amenities intended for the hotels male visitors and city residents,  such as a bar room, grill, billiard room, and barber shop. Remarkably, Carèrre and Hastings Rotunda recalled the sculpture court of 1820-39 at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, as roofed with glass in 1867 [see our commentary on the Ecole here].  The architects even imitated and elaborated the slender iron colonnettes that were added to support the gabled glass roof at the École.

Casino de Monte Carlo, Concert Hall, Charles Garnier, 1879

Jefferson Hotel

The young firm of Carrère and Hastings evoked the full depth of French academic classicism at this important project in the opening phase of the American Renaissance. The complexity and originality of the design grew out of the Jefferson's relatively small scale, generous capitalization, expansive functional program, and the personal direction of its developer.  Few commercial enterprises then or later have embodied such an ambitious effort at using art and architecture to fill a social and civic role.
Additional hotels were built in the years following, including Murphy's Hotel, the Hotel Richmond, the William Byrd Hotel, but none equaled the Jefferson, which, in spite of a disastrous fire in 1901, still operates in a substantial part of the original structure.    

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


An artists reconstruction of the Swan Tavern in its late
eighteenth-century heyday.
The demand on the part of travelers and visitors for food and overnight lodging has usually been met by the provision of rooms (or beds) rented by the night in buildings provided by private enterprise, unless capital for that purpose exceeded local resources. In that case, institutions or landowners would provide guest lodging.  Over time, the building types that served travelers changed in response to changing levels of prosperity and demand.  The American luxury hotel, typified by Richmonds Jefferson Hotel of 1895, had its origins in the early nineteenth-century taverns and hotels financed by merchants and developers to ease travel, promote business interests, and answer civic and social needs.

Taverns, ordinaries, and hotels served Richmonds visitors and residents as places of residence and resort. Virginias public social life, often associated with consumption of spirits, was largely led in taverns and drinking establishments operated in specialized buildings or in rooms licensed for the purpose in dwellings.  Upper floors were divided up into sleeping rooms. Licensing of such multiple accommodations and the sale of alcohol ensured their reliability and profitability, while providing income for the city in the form of fees and taxes.  Such accommodations were little more than dormitories or small rooms arranged along corridors. Taverns and, later, hotels and motels, tended to be built at transportation nodes or near places where visitors gathered or disembarked from wagons, trains, or automobiles.

In the earliest days, the taverns entertaining rooms, although privately owned and managed, were often the only available venue for public meetings and official transactions. Over time, the accommodations ranged from small and inexpensive to what amounted to a kind of civic institution. The grander hostelries were provided with architectural form and ornament and were the sites of important civic banquets and social events. Whether modest or grand, taverns and hotels express the social and aesthetic yearnings of cities for a kind of public palace, a civic building available to all who can afford to pay for what it provides.

Richmonds urban form allows for few axially placed buildings.  Churches and commercial structures occupied conventional lots in the overall grid plan. As might be expected, only official buildings like the Henrico Courthouse and the Capitol, and to a lesser extent, City Hall and the Custom House, are located in axial positions at the urban scale. Institutional buildings like churches and schools are generally freestanding, while hotels and taverns, like other commercial buildings, are placed in line with adjoining structures at the edge of the street.  

Accommodations for visitors, licensed sales of liquor, and settings for social conviviality were supplied throughout the colony and state in private establishments known variously as ordinaries, taverns, and houses of public entertainment. These businesses, often known as ordinaries during the earlier part of the eighteenth century, were located near seats of government and catered to the need of rural Virginians to spend one or more nights in town during court sessions or when conducting business. The term tavern supplanted ordinary for the better sort of facility at the middle of the eighteenth century. As transportation routes improved, taverns were spaced along post roads and turnpikes to provide for travelers and to supply changes of horses for stagecoaches. The term hotel came into being at the end of the eighteenth century to distinguish the best accommodations in urban areas. Inn and public house were rarely used terms in colonial Virginia [Lounsbury, Courthouses, 265].

While many taverns were housed in the dwelling of the proprietors, others were purpose-built. All, however, partook of a domestic character and also served as the home of their operators.  In spite of their private status and often modest scale, taverns and later, hotels, provided, other than the parish church, the closest approximation of a public building that most developing Virginia towns could muster. For instance, meetings of Petersburgs court and common hall were held in a tavern for the first years, until a courthouse could be constructed. Taverns and coffeehouses were the primary gathering places, accessible to all who could afford to pay, where the work of political compromise, commercial trade, civic celebration, and business dealing was carried on. They were used throughout the nineteenth century for meetings of a private and semi-private character. Hotels took over this function on a grander scale, and provided rooms for traveling salesmen, private parties, and the offices of commission merchants, including even slave traders, all within an architecturally articulated setting that emulated the appearance of the public buildings.
In Richmond, according to Samuel Mordecai, the earliest tavern (probably mid-18th century) was the Bird-in-Hand, located on Main Street at the foot of Church Hill. It was operated by old Burgess and his wife, round and rosy. The early town saw a succession of taverns, the older taverns growing old-fashioned and being replaced by larger and more comfortable facilities as new owners and investors saw an opportunity. Mordecai joked that taverns like rogues change their names when they lose their characters.
The City Tavern, originally one of the citys best accommodations, burned in 1858 [Benson J. Lossing, Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, 1855]
The Bird-in-Hand was joined by the City Tavern, also known as Galts Tavern, housed in a frame building on the northwest corner of Main and 19th streets. This popular tavern was kept by Gabriel Galt in 1780. Like most city taverns, this building had a prominent porch along the front from which residents could take in the street life. The porch doesnt show up in the view below, made years after the hotel had ceased to operate. It does show arch-headed doors and windows and a dentil cornice, marks of an important building in the mid-eighteenth century. The building also appears to have been expanded from a conventional dwelling form to accommodate more guests. Nearby was Coulbys Tavern, later known as Tankards Ordinary, in the block east of the Henrico County Courthouse [Ward and Greer].

Most inns built after 1800 were constructed of brick and they almost all had a wide front porch. The portico of the Globe Tavern was judged by the city Common Hall to impinge on the street and was ordered taken down in 1817 as part of a general regularizing of the street [Records of the Common Hall, 20 Oct. 1817].

According to historian Benson. J. Lossing, who visited in the late 1840s, the City Tavern served as a headquarters in the brief captivity of the city in January 1781 by British forces under the command of Benedict Arnold. Arnold and Simcoe made their quarters at the Old City Tavern, yet standing on Main Street, but partially in ruins, when I visited Richmond [Lossing, Pictorial Field Book of the Revolution, Vol. II, Chap. IX].

The site of the Falling Gardens and the Bell Tavern, shown in the lower left corner [Virginia Mutual policy, 1809].

As the town grew, taverns were built in a section of Main Street west of the Shockoe Creek Bridge, convenient to the old, county town and the newer capital city growing on the hill above. Bowlers Tavern, housed in a one-story frame structure, was hosted by an old-fashioned tavern-keeper known for his short britches, cocked hat, and red wig. To the rear of his business and home, the Major Bowler cultivated the Falling Gardens, a landscaped pleasure ground for public use in good weather. It occupied a hillside between the tavern and Shockoe Creek at the western end of the Market Bridge. It was succeeded on the same site by a succession of popular hostelries: first the Bell Tavern and much later the City Hotel, renamed the St. Charles Hotel [Mordecai]. Lafayette and Washington were entertained at the Bell Tavern in 1784.
This land on which the Bell Tavern and Falling Gardens were located had been part of a tract leased from William Byrd and known as Younghusbands tenement. Thomas Jefferson had enjoyed drinking at Mrs. Younghusbands Tavern in 1775, during the Virginia Convention at the Hernico Parish Church [Jon Meacham, Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, 2012, 80]. It seems likely that this is the same tavern later known as Bowlers and the Bell. Another tavern, The Rising Sun, took advantage of the traffic on Main at Fourteenth Street near the Old Capitol.
There were seven taverns in the city in 1782 [1782 Census Report].  They are listed here by ward:

-First Ward (west of Tenth Street)
  • Will Johnson, age 60, Inn Holder, (also Jona Gordon, 17, barkeep). Location unknown.
-Second Ward (east of 22nd Street). One of these two taverns was the Bird-in-Hand.
  • John Roper,  35, Ordinary Keeper
  • Stephen Tankard, Ordinary Keeper
-Third Ward (east of Shockoe Creek as far as 22nd Street)
  • Gabriel Galt, 33, tavern keeper, (also Richard Bowler, 21, barkeep and John Mantonia,                              40, gardner). This is the City Tavern.
-Fourth Ward (west of Shockoe Creek as far as Tenth Street). One of these is likely the forerunner                        to Bowlers Tavern.
  • Lerafino Formicola, 39, Tavern Keeper
  • Richard Hogg, Tavern Keeper
  • Samuel Jones, 37, Boarding House
In a day when there were few public buildings for entertainment, taverns played an important role in the civic events. The Washington birthday parade in 1788 closed with a dinner at Manns Tavern and a ball at the Union Tavern. The Eagle Tavern was for many years after the Revolution the citys most important hostelry. It was located on the south side of Main between 12th and 13th streets. It housed a ballroom that was the site of dinners, seasonal race balls, and other important social events. Washington was entertained at the Eagle in 1791 and Winfield Scott in 1817. Lafayettes visit in 1825 was celebrated at the Eagle [Christian].

The two-story Globe Hotel (formerly Mrs. Gilberts Coffee House) is shown here in an 1809 Virginia Mutual policy.
It was equipped with porches across the front and rear.

 Mrs. Gilberts Coffee House occupied a large wooden building farther to the west on Main (opposite the Exchange Bank) in the 1790s. It was a very popular gathering place, later known as the Globe Tavern.  Lynchs Coffee House served as a kind of exchange, located two doors below, beginning about 1810. It was a place where politicians and traders gathered and where stock auctions were held. The Virginia Inn was placed on Governor Street midway along the climb up Shockoe Hill from Main to Broad Street. Major Daviss Tavern was positioned to be convenient to Byrds Tobacco Warehouse. Goodalls Tavern or The Indian Queen, operated by Col. Parice Goodall, was located on the west side of Capitol Square on the north side of Grace Street [Mordecai 85].

This detail from Richard Youngs c 1809 map of Richmond shows the Henrico County Courthouse (B), the old City Tavern (E), the Market House (H), the Bell Tavern (K), the Rising Sun Tavern (L), the Eagle Tavern (R). and the Union Tavern (Y, seen just to the left of the Eagle).
In 1809, Youngs Map shows the most important taverns and hotels in operation at that time. There were seven. Five were found in the lower part of town:

  • The old City Tavern (E), on the north side of Main Street,two squares east of Shockoe Creek
  • The Rising Sun Tavern (L), on Main Street west of the creek
  • The Bell Tavern (K), also on Main Street west of the creek
  • The Eagle Tavern (R), west of the creek
  • The Union Tavern (Y), which had opened more recently on the south side of Main Street between 11th and 12th streets.

Accommodations were needed in the immediate area of the Capitol as well and the last two on the list stood on Shockoe Hill:

  • The Swan Tavern, on the north side of Broad Street
  • The Washington Tavern, located on the corner of Ninth and Grace streets at the gate to the Capitol Square.


The Swan Tavern in later years. It is said to have been built in 1771, was later known as the Broad Street Hotel and continued to operate during the Civil War years.

The Swan was considered the tavern of highest repute for good fare, good wine, and good company, patronized by the lawyers and judges of Shockoe Hill [Mordecai]. Thomas Jefferson stayed at the Swan Tavern in 1809 [Christian]. Nearby,, stood the Washington Tavern, formerly the Indian Queen, later as the Central Hotel, and after the Civil War as the St. Clair Hotel stood nearby on Grace Street.  The Indian Queen was opened by Parke Goodall in 1797 [Scott 1950, 97]. This site, directly across from St. Pauls Church, was continuously occupied by a tavern or hotel for nearly a hundred and fifty years. Its successor, designed by John Kevan Peebles, was the nine-story Hotel Richmond. This fine brick hotel, opened in 1904, is now a state office building.
The Indian Queen/Washington Tavern, which served as a temporary home for many legislators during meetings of the General Assembly, occupied a large brick building that underwent numerous changes as its owners sought to keep up with demand and guest expectations. In 1809 it was a three-story structure, 40 feet square in plan, with a tile roof and long, one-story, covered porches raised above the sidewalks on both the east and south fronts.  A brick wing to the north side contained a barroom conveniently placed along Ninth Street. A three-story addition to the west linked the tavern to a former private house that was also incorporated into the complex [Virginia Mutual Policy, 1809]. 

The three-story Washington Tavern is shown here in a Virginia Mutual policy of 1809, with its wrap-around porch and barroom. A kitchen and large brick stable were nearby [north is to the bottom].

The Washington Tavern at Ninth and Grace was later incorporated into the St. Clair Hotel, seen here in the later nineteenth century.

Goddin's Tavern, Brook Turnpike at Bacon's Quarter Branch. What appears to have formerly been a central arch has been filled in.
Taverns were also needed at the nodes where traffic from the areas around Richmond collected- on Broad Street where wagons from the Salt Works, the Lead Mines, and the produce of western counties entered the city preparatory to descending the hill to trade in the town. Richards Tavern was a frame structure on Board Street west of Sixth Street [Mordecai]. Baker's or Goddins Tavern stood just outside town at Bacons Quarter Branch, where stock drivers could rest before entering the city with their herds. It also served as a popular place of resort and official entertainment. The tavern was opened by Martin Baker in the late 18th century and operated in later years by Capt. John Goddin. 

Photographs show that the original building was a long brick structure that paralleled the turnpike and was fronted by a two-story porch. This appears to have been penetrated at the center by an archway that led to a yard at the rear that contained a famous spring of cold water. When two-story brick sections were added at each end, they defined an inset courtyard in the front.  The shutters on the upper porch in the well-known historic photograph were added by the nuns who operated it as the Hospital of St. Francis de Sales in the 1860s.     

In the Antebellum period, the city's taverns continued to operate at a variety of scales in cities across the nation, but a new building type joined them- the Hotel, which was more architecturally ambitious and luxurious in its fittings than the traditional tavern or inn.

Hotels of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are covered in Part Two of this series on the taverns and hotels of Richmond..