|Detail of the Market area from the 1879 Beers Map of Richmond. Shockoe Creek can be seen running to the left of the long Market Hall|
Today Urbanismo walked the area of the First Market on Seventeenth Street and the Richmond Slave Trail, a poignant reminder of the nefarious trade in slaves that was based in Richmond. A heritage tour is being developed around archeological resources connected with Richmond’s slave markets.
Markets, since the earliest times, have been placed on the edge of built-up parts of towns, where access by wagons and animals is easiest and the noise and refuse associated with them can be segregated. The Richmond market, and, presumably, the semi-annual fair which preceded it, was placed just beyond the plat where the bottomlands prevented easy settlement, beside the bridge which connected the original town with the newer suburbs on the hill to the west. Over time edge markets are surrounded by shops and fully incorporated into the town.
|Market Square in 1793 (north is to the right)|
As we have detailed elsewhere, the city government laid out a formal market square in 1793. It ran between the town and the creek and extended 123 feet to the north and south of Main Street. A two-story brick Market Hall was built in the following year on the bank of the creek on the north side of Main Street. While the market hall survived for many years and has been succeeded by three more structures in the same location, the original market square layout was abandoned as the former commons was laid out in irregular lots and streets over the following decades.
|Former trestle extension into Main Street Station|
The area where Main Street Station was built, west of the market, was a natural one for construction of a massive new structure and for the interstate highway which would later overshadow it. The area along the curving route of the creek was subject to regular flooding. Except for a continuous streetfronts added in the early nineteenth century along the valuable lots on Main and Franklin streets, the banks of the creek were nearly empty. Between Franklin and the James River the creek had been confined to a straight channel running perpendicular to Main Street, but once north of Franklin it wandered back and forth under the steep eastern slopes of Shockoe Hill.
|Main Street Station seen from the Seaboard Depot|
|Freight wing of the Seaboard Depot sen from the northwest|
|The Seaboard Freight Depot, built in 1909|
|Where Franklin Street once ran below the great train shed of Main Street station, seen from the west.|
|The site of Lumpkin's Slave Jail, marked with stone blocks, lies here beneath fifteen feet of fill|
The area along the creek was mostly residential by the late nineteenth century. The descent was steep from the hill, as can be seen in the postcard shown below, so that the Egyptian Building housing the Medical College was on the edge of the hill, as were the Brockenbrough House (Confederate White House) and the First Baptist Church (later the First African Baptist Church). The land at the bottom of the hill on Marshall Street was parceled out by the city to secondary public buildings, principally the Lancastrian School and the City Jail.
|View east along Marshall Street from Shockoe Hill, Online Postcard Collection, VCU Library|
|Stone wall on the south side of Broad Street The stone wall marks the spot where Shockoe Creek passes beneath Broad Street.|
|Coal unloading facilities at Hungerford. Coal was bagged in the small shed until 2004|
|A well-preserved, cobbled section of N 16th St. north of Broad Street, west of the tracks|
|View looking north from Broad Street under the pylons of the railroad.|
The area east of the tracks and north of Franklin Street has been used for parking for many years, but in the early twentieth century it was full of tightly spaced shops. Of these only one large building on the northwest corner of Grace and Ambler (formerly Union) streets remain. This housed Loving’s Produce, a wholesale company, until c. 2008. In 1905, it was the warehouse of the Richmond Branch of Armour and Company meat suppliers.
|Loving's Produce Building facade facing Ambler (Union) Street|
|The Main Street front of the YMCA Hotel Building, east of Main Street Station|
|The well-preserved three-story commercial building with the Acme Tomato Co Bldg. beyond|
Here we ended our tour of the fragmentary urban tissue along Shockoe Creek with a visit to Havana '59 for some much needed refreshment.