“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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


A triumphal arch constructed as a temporary 
entry gateway to the massive Street
Carnival held on Broad Street
in 1900. 
The ritual aspects of Richmond's spatial organization were embodied in the regular parades and ceremonial entries by military heroes and presidents that punctuated the city’s collective life. At the same time, the solemn processions such as the city's post-Civil War Emancipation Day parades could embody the collective aspirations of a disenfranchised section of the population. The city's street were also the scene of spontaneous parades and even riots, when residents wanted to attract political attention to an issue. 

The classical foundations of nineteenth-century liberal arts education guaranteed that many of the Richmond’s political leaders viewed contemporary cities as the inevitable heirs of an ancient civilization. Ancient Roman practice included the erection of a multiplicity of architectural memorials to the dead, whose virtue could instruct the city, of heroically scaled images of rulers and military leaders, of trophies celebrating victories in war, and of public structures, such as loggias and fountains, that allegorized the natural world even as they provided for the public good. 

Ceremonial routes were associated with the armatures identified among imperial Roman cities by William McDonald, which formed around the connecting links (the principal streets and squares), the important public buildings, and the "architecture of passage," which consisted of public amenities such as fountains and arches and marked segments or stages along the route [McDonald, The Architecture of the Roman Empire: An Urban Appraisal, 3]. These routes provided the setting for the adventus, in which the emperor formally entered the city, either following a military campaign or as part of a tour or progress through the realm.  This practice continued into early modern times as the festivity associated with the ritual entry and greeting of a prince by the civic authorities, followed by a ceremonial meal. 

The 1905 Emancipation Day Parade moves west along Main Street following Richmond's
 traditional parade route. Its solemn and determined participants demonstrated their

 resolve to celebrate and perpetuate freedom to observers at upper floor windows. 

Processions and parades at the Urban Scale

Before the erection of the Washington Monument in Capitol Square in the 1850s, the city’s processional route was marked by civic architecture at the urban scale, including the Henrico County Courthouse, the city's Market Hall, the City Hall (after 1816) and the Capitol as the markers of a ceremonial adventus armature. However, in 1824, triumphal arches greeted Lafayette in almost every city he visited. One large arch extended over Main Street from the Union Hotel to the building across from it [Charles Poindexter, Richmond: An Illustrated Guidebook, 1907, 47]. Three arches, dedicated to Generals Lafayette, Nelson, and Green, spanned the three upper gates to Capitol Square, in which stood a central four-fronted arch and an obelisk in honor of other officers [Christian 102]. 

Here, in a detail from a Harper's Magazine
 illustration of the fall of Richmond, a resident
 watches the celebration in the street from a balcony above Main Street. 
Early nineteenth-century store/houses did not have exterior balconies. These were
developed during the antebellum period.  Here, on Bank Street in Petersburg, is a mid-
nineteenth-century cast iron balcony, typically located at the windows of the first floor of
 the living quarters above a shop, from which residents could watch not only civic processions  but the daily activities of the street. 
Regular annual celebratory processions on the Fourth of July and Washington’s Birthday (which replaced the King’s Birthday from pre-revolutionary times) served to reinforce the  American sense of community by delineating lines of social and political organization.  This kind of unifying civic ritual was transformed in many cities, after the 1840s, into an “ethnic festival” designed to bring out differences among the citizens.  

The civic parade is a particularly American invention, where, according to Mary Ryan, the city displayed itself, organized into corporate groups, for public view. It took the form of a long procession of marching units, many uniformed in keeping with their position in the city, and was open to any group who wished to participate [Mary Ryan, “The American Parade: Representations of Nineteenth-Centry Social Order,” in Lynn Avery Hunt, The New Cultural History, U of California P, 1989, 131-138]. These were part of the rich political life of the street, where blocks of voters, drills of militias, and even spontaneous riots moved along the city’s streets to the view of spectators and building occupants.  

The appearance of a "commemorative procession" following the death of George 
Washington in 1799, Philadelphia, PA [Detail, Birch's Views of Philadelphia, Plate 11].

Like the parade that accompanied Lafayette’s heroic entry into Richmond in 1824, Washington's birthday parade in 1832 formed at the Henrico Courthouse, proceeded past the market, and ended at the Capitol [Christian 103]. The funeral procession for Jefferson in 1826, which also followed the route from courthouse to capitol, showed the city and state hierarchically arrayed in its full integrity: Governor, Council, Officers of state, officers and soldiers of the Revolution and Society of Cincinnati, clergy and relatives of the deceased, Federal and State Committee of Arrangements, the mayor and corporate authorities of Richmond, citizens of Richmond, and the military [Christian]. The Washington Monument parade of 1858 also embraced the traditional ceremonial route, starting at 21st and Main and ending at the dedication of the monument. 

The "funeral car" for the civic ceremonies in 1852 honoring the recently deceased
 political figures John C. Calhoun, Daniel Webster, and Henry Clay,  in New Orleans. 
Richmond funeral parades undoubtedly employed similar memorial trappings.
Jefferson Davis's funeral caisson in 1893.

As the city’s monuments multiplied over time, entry and military parades were routed to take advantage of the overlay of civic symbolism provided by public art as an "architecture of passage" to the city’s relentless grid of streets. Since the object of the celebration was absent, most of the civic birthday and funeral parades had been entirely symbolic. The funeral for Jefferson Davis in 1893 was very different, owing to the specific demands of the burial in Hollywood Cemetery. The procession, the culmination of a extended train cortege originating in New Orleans, was viewed by thousands as the hearse moved from the Capitol to the cemetery. In a similar way, the private funeral procession, moving slowly behind the hearse on its way to Hollywood or one of the city's other cemeteries, links the mourners' private remembrance to the ongoing life of the city

Teddy Roosevelt’s entry into the city took place along along Main Street in 1905 and appears to have turned north here at Fifth Street for a gentle climb to Capitol Square.  [Shockoe Examiner].
After the completion of Monument Avenue, the armature of the entry ritual changed from Main Street to Monument Avenue, with arrival of dignitaries at Broad Street Station and an end point, as always, at Capitol Square. They included the processions for Marshall Foch, Richard E. Byrd, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, and Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George V. past the many representations of Confederate military and political leaders and the equestrian statue of Washington [Monument Avenue Preservation Zone NR form, 1969]. 

Political processions, designed to promote the campaigns of candidates, were never absent from the streets of the city. In 1892, city Democrats organized several rallies, the "most notable of which was the night of September 23rd. There was a parade and torchlight procession and thousands gathered at the Academy of Music to hear Adlai E.Stevenson and Isadore Rayner speak" [Christian 426]. The victory of Grover Cleveland that November led to a massive celebration and "one of the greatest parades in her history. . . . thirty-eight squares long . . . . There were torches, tableaux, and floats, which made a brilliant spectacle" [Christian 426].  

Military parades, originally designed to showcase the marching skills of fighting units, became, with the advent of large-scale war in the late nineteenth century, both an element of national propaganda and a way of commemorating those who died in war. Victory parades resembled, not only the entry of soldiers into defeated cities, but the "triumphs" of successful armies, laden with booty and prisoners, processing into the Roman forum. Typified by the Bastille Day parade in Paris, established under the Third Republic in 1880, the modern version of these events included massed military units, wagons and caissons, and eventually, tanks and other armored vehicles. Over time, military components tended to supplant the display of civic order typical of early nineteenth-century processions. The inaugural parade for Gov. William O'Ferrall in 1894, featuring the First, Second, Third and Fourth regiments, marked a new era of state pageantry. "There was more pomp and ceremony attuning this inaugural  than any since war" [Christian 434]. When local regiments of the Virginia troops marched to the station for the Spanish American War in 1898, the streets were lined with supporters [Christian 459].

March written for the Street Carnival in 1900.

In 1900, a massive "Street Carnival" was organized by the city's commercial interests to promote or "boost" the city. The carnival was deliberately modeled on the growing Carnival celebrations in New Orleans and Mobile, harnessing entertainment to commercial  growth. The first day featured a parade of floats celebrating local companies, followed by floral, military, and children's parades on subsequent days. A large triumphal arch formed an impressive gateway to the festival. "Broad Street was filled with novel and beautiful booths and all the houses were decorated. At night it looked like fairyland. . . . Day after day there were thousands of people on the street, and all seemed to enter into the spirit of the occasion" [Christian 471]. 

In October of the following year, the organizers gave the street festival a new theme, "The Electric Carnival."  An archway resembling the Eiffel Tower was located in the center of the street, edged with lines of incandescent lights and topped by a star-shaped cluster of lamps. Much of the lighting was provided by electric railway headlights. According to a trade publication, "Its object was the betterment of the city, extension of its business, advertising its climate, industries and manufactures; it was directed somewhat after the style of the New Orleans "Mardigras," the night pageants being very beautiful; in fact the celebration was a street fair and carnival combined. Ten thousand electric lights were strung across Broad Street for about half a mile, making it as bright as day" Exhibits included an animal show and a display called "the Streets of Cairo" [Street Railway Journal, XVIII:20 (1901) 738].  

The tower was remotely illuminated at the opening remotely by President Roosevelt from the White House using a telegraph key [Ward 215]. The carnivals proved very popular. Unlike the carnivals in the deep South, however, the Richmond Carnival, without a direct relation to local traditions, proved to be a short-lived effort. The success of the temporary arches appears to have prompted the United Daughters of the Confederacy to propose a monumental arch in 1902 over Broad Street at the intersection of Twelfth Street as a memorial to Jefferson Davis, but this was never built. The role of urban promotional event was taken on by the Tobacco Festival, with its pageant and parade, beginning in 1949.

This arch was proposed for a site in Monroe Park soon after Jefferson Davis' death in 1889.
In 1901, the United Daughters of the Confederacy proposed placing an arch over Broad Street
[City on the James, 1893].

The dedication of monuments in Richmond often began with a parade. In the case of the Lee Monument, hundreds of citizens were recruited to pull the statue through the streets. The Jefferson Davis Monument, finally realized on Monument Avenue, was dedicated as a part of the large Confederate reunion of 1907 and took place at the culmination of an impressive parade.

318th Infantry Regiment’s homecoming parade through a temporary triumphal arch into
 Capitol Square in Richmond, Virginia about June 1919. From the regimental history of the

Here is a brief film of a 1918 military parade moving along Broad Street and Monument Avenue and ending at the Capitol.

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