All photos by Jay Paul
Today’s Richmond City Guide Update comes from the original guide author, Leslie Kingery of Glappy World, a consulting firm for technology implementation, social media strategy and application and interactive design. Her niche is in the travel and food industry, and she admits to being a foodie. Today Leslie takes us on a guided tour through the sites, sounds, eats and attractions of this historic city. Thanks, Leslie, for a wonderful update! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
Richmond stands in the center of the state of Virginia with close proximity to the mountains, the sea and Washington, DC. The city has a rich history, dating back to colonial times when the capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond, then served as the capital of the Confederate States of America and now the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Our lovely city sits high on a hill, giving it a magnificent view of the James River surrounded by a plethora of architecturally significant areas, each with its own unique personality. The city is also dotted with major universities: University of Richmond, Virginia Union University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the Medical College of Virginia.
Richmond is a wonderful walking, biking and cultural city with incredible museums, festivals, cafes and shopping. The city has often been cast as very southern and traditional, but the vibrant music and arts scene is gently prodding it design-wise into a much more modern city. Proof is in the success of the city’s well-attended monthly tours of modern homes and offices hosted by Modern Richmond Tour, with architects and owners on hand to speak about their projects.
Antiques in Manchester is a wonderful open-air upscale antiques mall concentrating on mid-century modern furniture and accessories. AIM is co-sponsored by Micheal Sparks Design, Ghostprint Gallery and Maurice Beane Studios. AIM is open Saturdays between 9:00am and 4:00pm in the covered walkway beside 205 Hull St. until the end of December, weather permitting.
Appomattox Tile Art
The tiles are beautiful, but so is the building they occupy in old town Petersburg, Virginia. Formerly a Model-A Ford factory of 45,000 sq. ft. in the Beaux Arts style, this historic location provides an excellent space to inspire timeless creations. A staff of 45 plus artisans makes marvelous mosaics and more.
Blue Elephant is an upscale furniture consignment shop located in Richmond’s historical Fan District. You’ll find gently used furniture and home decor along with pieces from local artists. Recently, they had many different “owl” accessories — loads of nature fun for your home.
A gem located just south of the river in the once-gritty part of Manchester, this architectural salvage yard has meticulously organized everything into all manner of categories, shapes and sizes — all delightfully arranged at your finger tips. Whether you’re an interior designer or a DIYer, this repository of history is a worthy stop for anyone looking to restore their turn-of-the-century home back to its original glory.
Charles Luck Stone Center
Did you ever think stone could be as sexy or en vogue as New York Fashion Week’s latest trends? No? Guess again. The flagship showroom, designed by Peter Fraser of Fraser Design Associates, is an inspiring muse for those looking to build anything out of stone. Whether it’s a fireplace mantelpiece or a custom mosaic from an Italian artisan, you’ll rock (er, walk) out wearing more than just the clothes on your back.
Chop Suey Books
Complete with the cool Caturday adventures of Wonton overseeing the store, this is great place to lose yourself amid a fabulous collection of used books or in the upstairs art gallery.
This itty-bitty boutique store in the heart of the Libbie/Grove shopping district carries a carefully edited collection of furniture, art, lighting, bedding and accessories. Think slipcovers, rattan baskets and cashmere throws — perfect pieces to finish off your weekend river house.
Located in a rural stretch of forests and farmland, this 19th-century general store turned home accessories and gift store is a welcome respite from the ubiquitous shopping malls, strip malls and big-box retailers located just a few miles down the road. It’s a wonderful nod to days gone by — lazy summer afternoons sipping sweet tea and enjoying the company of others — the perfect backdrop for the shop’s casual French-country-inspired goods.
Affectionately referred to by locals as “La DIFF,” this unique furniture store blazed a trail into Richmond in 1992. Defying all Commonwealth odds, their selection of modern and contemporary furniture became a haven for those craving furniture with clean, unfussy lines. Occupying downtown’s old Watkins Cottrell Building, La Diff kicked off 2011 with an expansion to the west of the city. And recently, they collaborated with their neighbors to hold the First Shockoe Design Day.
Expats from California, the owners of this oh-so-fabulous mid-century modern home furnishings store, are hard at work scouring the planet to bring a little dash (or a lot, depending on whom you ask) of Palm Springs heaven (a la Kelly Wearstler and Richard Neutra, to name a few) to the Old Dominion’s traditional chintz and chippendale. If you just can’t resist and end up purchasing a little piece of recycled vintage, don’t forget to have your grill and goods photographed. They’ll add it to their ownership section on the website — with your permission, of course.
Micheal Sparks Design
This new space not only acts as a showroom for the resale of mid-century modern furniture, but it is also a gallery for contemporary artists and a creative space for the designers. The owner, Micheal Sparks, has lived all over the world and brings a fresh retail view to Manchester.
Think the only VA souvenir out there is a “Virginia is for Lovers” T-shirt? Don’t fret my pet — er, mongrel. This pooch has you covered. Although not a souvenir shop in the traditional sense, this boutique has everything you need for a unique hostess gift, birthday gift, wedding gift or anything in-between — just don’t forget something for little Fido. Worth mentioning is their incredible selection of indie card makers, whose stationary, letterpress and even wrapping paper are to die for.
Filled with traditional and quirky accessories for the home under the watchful eyes of Eapoe (named for Edgar Allen Poe) and Scamper. Designer Tayne Renmark has a discerning eye for wonderful picks. And in the spirit of giving back, a percentage of sales will benefits local non-profit Art 180.
Ruth & Ollie
This is not your grandmother’s store. Well, maybe not your grandmother. Named after the shop owners’ grandmothers: Ruth was traditional, and Ollie was funky. After a quick stroll through the showroom, one might imagine Ruth as being quiet and reserved, her traditional tendencies just a soft-spoken sidekick to Ollie, whose loud, offbeat personality dominates center stage. Don’t miss the repurposed rugs-as-pillows and the amazing lighting selection.
This tiny store on Broad Street offers an incredible selection of traditional and contemporary product lines for your kitchen and bath — always something new, useful and beautiful to see. Pop in when they’re open for the First Friday Artwalks.
S B Cox Demolition
Tucked away at the bottom of Church Hill, these rough and tough guys don’t limit themselves to razing old buildings; they also salvage what they can before swinging the wrecking ball. As you might imagine, the place is dirty, dusty and unorganized, but if you’re looking for a clawfoot tub, a mint green toilet, a bargain or all of the above (and you have A LOT of time on your hands), then Cox is your place.
Located on Strawberry Street, this small boutique offers up fresh flowers and locally made candy, cards and soaps. Unique lighting and decorative pieces made by local designers Wendy Umanoff and Eric Schmoldt are also available.
These Four Walls
Just a few doors down from La Diff, this showroom houses a collection of furniture and accessories that sharply contrasts its neighbor’s. While La DIFF commonly takes its cues from across the Atlantic, T4W suggests south of the border influences. Unique, hand-carved chairs, tables and benches dominate the floor, punctuated by brightly painted case goods and an eclectic selection of accessories.
The Shops at 5807
Twenty-one different shops within a shop are at the unique Shops at 5807. Faves include Open House, with their wonderful up-and-coming indie design stars and products ranging from textiles and ceramics to bedding and dinnerware. Their Holiday collection, which includes the adorable plump penguins, are loads of fun! And then VERVE Home Furnishings, a mod boutique mixing 60s South Beach kitsch with 70s shagedelic Lucite and chrome. Think Jonathan Adler meets Austin Powers — now that’s groovy, baby!
I dare you to find another fabric store in Richmond selling anything so scrumptious at $2.99/yd. Huge, beautiful selection of discounted fabric in both Richmond and Charlottesville.
Williams & Sherrill
Notable for its selection of fine fabrics and wallpaper, this 25,000 square foot showroom boasts an astonishing collection of over 1,000 furniture, fabric and accessory vendors. Whether you buy something or not, it’s worth a stop. Their in-house design team has an incredibly discerning eye, creating living and dining vignettes you’ll pine over long after you’ve left the showroom floor.
*I included a few fashion shops, as the spaces they occupy are as spectacular as the goods they sell.*
Paul & Paul just wanted a great fitting shirt. One Paul studied the art of shirt making in London, and soon these two southern boys headed back to the states with a shirt that was not only a great fit and of the highest quality but also added some innovation to the classic men’s design. Now headquartered in a renovated tobacco warehouse in downtown Richmond, you must stop in to see their industrial space and definitely buy one of their great-fitting shirts.
Need Supply Co
An awesome new space and a wonderful selection of both local and national indie designers, but their denim is still king. They have not only the best selection of designer jeans but also a super knowledgeable staff that knows how to put you in the perfect pair by lifting your behind and elongating your legs.
The best of New York, London and LA fashion is housed in one very mod and open space. The windows are incredible and always make me stop, gaze and drool. AND they have fabulous trunk and fashion shows on Carytown’s Fashion First Thursdays.
Richmond has a robust arts scene with many incredible art galleries located throughout the city. These two wonderfully designed spaces, Page Bond Gallery and Glave Kocen Gallery, are as amazing as their collections. They are on located on Main Street just steps away from each other.
And do stop in Reynolds Gallery to view the beautiful, thought-provoking art, also on Main.
And over on Broad Street . . .
John finds the best of emerging and mid-career artists. And say hello to John at Art Basel Miami and in NYC at his sister gallery, MULHERIN + POLLARD.
Eric Schindler Gallery
Kirsten Gray has a discerning eye, choosing the best and most unusual locally produced art for Richmond’s longest-running art gallery — over 50 years! Her art openings are a wonderful mix of old and new faces; it always feels like a homecoming to me.
Quirk Gallery wears its name well — it’s quirky, fun and always exciting. In the front of Quirk, an extraordinary gift shop houses unique goods from local jewelry makers, potters and artists. Heading farther back, the gallery opens up to an ever-changing exhibition of expertly curated shows featuring both emerging and established artists.
Planet Zero Events & Art Center
An incredible events space, with galleries and artists’ spaces just over the bridge from the Shockoe Slip area. Do try the yummies at Planet Zero Café. The BLT brie on a toasted baguette is fabulous!
Museums, Gardens & Noteworthy Architecture
Richmond is graced with many historic and architecturally significant buildings of different styles and periods.
This is actually a Tudor house built in England, saved by Richmonder Thomas C. Williams, Jr. and brought to Virginia and painstakingly reassembled. Agecroft also hosts Richmond Shakespeare, a treat under the stars!
This grand movie palace has been largely unaltered in appearance or function and has been operating almost continuously as a theatre since 1928. Today it offers second-run movies for $1.99. And just as in the early days of the Byrd Theatre, you can catch a Saturday night performance of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ prior to the movie.
The first full-scale building in the form of a classical temple since antiquity. While in France, Jefferson was inspired by the 1st-century Roman temple “La Maison Carree” in Nimes. Jefferson, an amateur architect, enlisted the help of Clerisseau, an expert on ancient buildings. Clerisseau directed the creation of a plaster model for the new building, and Jefferson drew plans.
An adaptive reuse of a 40,000 square-foot historic warehouse building, the Corrugated Box Building has an open, modern and flexible floor plan with a community of vibrant, creative businesses — a great mix of design, web, photography and food.
Edgar Allen Poe Museum
Called “America’s Shakespeare,” Poe penned such classics as The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher. The museum is housed in the wonderful Old Stone House and features many of Poe’s belongings.
Virginia presidents Monroe and Tyler, General J.E.B. Stuart, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, and the remains of over 18,000 Confederate dead are buried in this park-like, pastoral setting high above the James River. Incredible monuments, tombs and statuary grace the landscape. Do look for the incredible granite stone pyramid and the fabulous cast-iron dog.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Has a remarkable 27-year history and is continually growing and changing (as great gardens do!). Special events, like the upcoming Dominion Garden Fest, magically transform Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden into a winter wonderland of fantasy, festivity and family fun for the holidays.
A true gem in the middle of the city — spacious grounds, a grand Victorian estate, Japanese and Italian gardens, a children’s petting zoo and several animal exhibits. Entry is free, but donations are suggested to maintain this gorgeous oasis.
St. John’s Church
Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech here in 1775. Re-enactments occur each Sunday in the summer beginning Memorial Day weekend and running through Labor Day weekend. The Anniversary Re-enactment is held on the Sunday in March closest to March 23, the actual date of Henry’s speech.
The largest intact Victorian community in the United States, covering over 100 blocks. The area’s name comes from a fan-shaped street pattern created by the pentagonal shape of Monroe Park at the base of the district. Houses in the area date before 1880 and through the 1920s. The historic Monument Avenue borders the area with its majestic statues and grand homes. One of the best places to walk for miles and see fabulous homes and gardens, breeze into an unique shop or stop by a patio cafe for a beer and some food.
Library of Virginia
This library building is magnificent. So worth the stop in for a quiet get-away to research, read and enjoy its ever-changing exhibitions.
Like most old buildings, The National theatre, which opened in 1923, had seen better days prior to last year’s painstaking restoration, which transformed it from a dilapidated vaudeville movie theatre into a breathtakingly beautiful concert hall. A state-of-the-art sound system sits right at home next to ornate plasterwork and weathered stone stairs. Now, instead of bypassing the capital city, artists and bands have no excuse but to put Richmond on the music map.
The Richmond History Center
Offers a comprehensive history of Richmond with interesting exhibitions. They also offer unique tours of the city, from History Hound walking tours of the Fan (yes, you can bring your dog!) to Civil Walk Samplers by bus.
The Science Museum of Virginia
Housed in the former Broad Street train station designed by John Russell Pope in the neoclassical style. The museum is also the parent organization of the very modern Richard Neutra Rice House.
Virginia Center for Architecture
Once a private residence, this 27,000 square-foot Tudor-Revival mansion designed by architect John Russell Pope was purchased by the VCA in 2003. This incredible foundation’s sole mission is to “invite the public to explore the power and importance of architecture through exhibitions, educational programs, publications and its stewardship of a historic landmark.” You will not be disappointed.
The neoclassical structure that houses the library and headquarters of the The Virginia Historical Society was built in five stages over a period of years from 1912 to 2006. The Confederate Memorial Association built the first part as a shrine, completed in 1913, to the Confederate dead and as a repository for the records of the Lost Cause. In 1946, the Confederate Memorial Association merged with the Virginia Historical Society. The Virginia House, part of the Virginia Historical Society, was the home of Alexander and Virginia Weddell and was completed just before the stock market crash of 1929. The home overlooks the James River west of town and was constructed from the materials of a 16th-century English manor house.
The well-regarded WRVA Building is located in Richmond’s oldest intact neighborhood. This is a great area for strolling and admiring the largest collection of antebellum structures in the city in addition to Johnson’s modern structure. Several wonderful parks dot the hills where you have fabulous river and city views; wonderful spots to lounge in the grass or play Frisbee with your pups.
The well regarded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts last year completed a four-year expansion project, which added more than 165,000 square feet to the museum’s previous 380,000 square feet. London-based architect Rick Mather, in partnership with SMBW, a Richmond architectural firm, designed the award winning expansion and transformation of the VMFA’s 13 1/2-acre campus. In honor of its 75th anniversary, the VMFA announced a landmark exhibition, Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris. VMFA was the only East Coast venue for the exhibition’s seven-city international tour. Visitors from almost all fifty states viewed this amazing exhibition.
Sitting high on a hill overlooking both over the James River and downtown, Philip Johnson designed the WRVA Building, located in Richmond’s oldest intact neighborhood. This is a great area for strolling and admiring the largest collection of antebellum structures in the city in addition to Johnson’s modern structure. Several wonderful parks dot the hills where you have fabulous river and city views; wonderful spots to lounge in the grass or play Frisbee with your pups.
We have a bevy of established and new wonderful restaurants in our small city. In this guide, I’m just listing those with interesting spaces as well as wonderful food. There are many more!
The menu varies nightly with some unusual but wonderful combinations, like the white anchovies with grilled marinated romaine or the country pate with pickled pumpkin and eggplant. Check their blog for their interesting and fun tasting events, such as the Suds + Swine.
Owners/designers/artists Steve and Lainie Gratz gathered ideas, materials, paintings and furniture from all over the United States and built, with the help of furniture designer Tom Brickman, a well-designed, fresh eating and drinking space that rivals any in the very cosmopolitan cities of LA, Miami or New York. The details, like the bathroom door handles or the boulders (rock) buried into the walls, will make you swoon. Not only are the food and handmade cocktails amazing, but also with the help of Chris Bopst, amazing music plays into the wee hours of the night.
Belvidere on Broad
Fresh, natural, organic food choices with vegan and gluten-free options and an ever-changing craft beer list makes this both a great neighborhood and a destination eatery. Located in a former bicycle shop with rotating art on the walls, go for the Trio Sampler Starter of house-smoked applewood salmon, Maryland lump crab cakes and organic white bean hummus, the very unique turkey and white bean burger and finish with the dark chocolate Bailey’s brownie. Yum!
The Black Sheep
This pint-sized cafe just off Broad Street has quickly become a local favorite. They serve up possibly the biggest sub this side of the Mississippi, known as the Battleship. Get a side of Poor Man’s Shrimp Cocktail and an Orange Nehi. I dare you to save room for the banana pudding.
Blue Goat VA
An urban gastropub featuring Euro comfort food, sourced locally, in a nose-to-tail concept encouraging guests to order multiple plates and share them family-style as they come out from the kitchen. The space is both warm and industrial; I like the plank bar tables that run the length of the dining area.
The Boathouse at Rockett’s Landing
Has a perfect sundown view of Richmond seen from an amazing industrial space in the bend of the James complete with refreshing drinks and appetizers. It is the perfect Happy Hour spot!
Croissant and coffee, champagne and oysters, a burger and pommes frites — Can Can is a beautiful place to dine whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or late-day cocktails at the bar. If you have time to linger over coffee, sit by the window up front and people watch. In addition, they bake fabulous breads daily. Like a true Parisian, dash in after work and grab a crusty baguette.
Packed on Broad Street’s First Friday Artwalk, this cafe has a fun bar that stocks $1 PBRs and great comfort food. The entrees are generous and tasty. Try the Fried Green Tomato appetizer or a plate of their vegetable sides.
Cuban food at its finest in a cozy cafe-cum-store stocking wonderful Cuban products. Save room for the famous tres leches cake made by the owner’s mom and a cup of cafe con leche.
There are many good coffee shops in Richmond, but Lamplighter holds a special place in my heart. I love the innovative reuse of a former gas station that is now run by bike enthusiasts. They roast their own beans. They have a wonderful, tasty and lighthearted food menu. And I ALWAYS run into a friend or three.
Has the most incredible view of downtown Richmond from across the river. Visit at sunset, have their infamous Brown Ale and burger on the patio.
Mama Zu (no website)
Located in Oregon Hill, which is adjacent to the fan, this unorthodox restaurant serves up scrumptious Italian food. With a huge local following, many fans are willing to wait hours for a table just to savor the dishes infused with garlic, fresh basil and mozzarella. Order the white bean, garlic and arugula — it’s an explosion of flavor for your taste buds.
Legions of brunch fans show up at the doors Sundays hankering for the famous Devil’s Mess and a rock solid Bloody Mary. The chalkboard dinner menu changes every 3 weeks, but their signature Thai Spicy Shrimp over linguine is always on the menu. Millie’s is highly regarded for their food, but they have both an amazing collection of vintage jukeboxes and real 45s.
Lovely addition to Church Hill’s quaint neighborhood with wonderful southern-inspired food, Virginia wines and a Coca-Cola cake. Genteel atmosphere with its wood floors, refashioned church pews and pale blue walls are so inviting.
Wonderful neighborhood space that serves incredible Greek food. Go during their Meze Ora weekdays and try their small plates, such as the Grilled Haloumi. Sit at the fabulous long community table and share great food and good stories.
Incredible wines, very knowledgeable staff and tasty small plates are served at this tiny, tasty wine bar. Order the fried stuffed olives or fried chickpeas along with a stellar slate of chesses and meats.
Has an awesome outdoor patio for brunch and people watching. A hearty selection of Eggs Benedict and pancakes as well as burgers will satisfy everyone’s Sunday morning hunger.
See & Do
First Fridays Richmond
Almost every city has an art walk these days, but this one has being going strong for 10 seasons. Not just great art, but also fantastic people watching. One of the galleries, 1708 Gallery, hosts InLight, an exhibition of contemporary public art inspired by light. This year, it took place along the James River.
Modern Richmond Tour
In addition to its monthly tours, Modern Richmond Tour hosted an architecture and design film series.
Richmond Folk Fest
Held on the riverfront, this is one of Virginia’s largest FREE events and celebrates American culture through music, dance, traditional craft and food. Last year’s festival featured more than 30 performing groups on seven stages for an estimated 200,00o folks that shimmied, shaked and boogied to the music. This is a hugely popular and fun family event produced by Venture Richmond.
The Jefferson Hotel
Recognized as Richmond’s grandest hotel and one of the finest in America since 1895. Known for its breathtaking architecture, elegant décor, and alligators (do ask!), The Jefferson Hotel offers a uniquely Richmond travel experience.
The Grace Manor Inn
There are many B & Bs in the fan/Museum district areas. I have not stayed in any, but this one is highly recommended. Do comment if you have more. The Grace Manor Inn has incredible 3-course gourmet breakfast, an outdoor saltwater swimming pool, and is beautifully decorated in the period. My friend said the food was just so good!
RVA Guides to Events/Happenings
The definitive guide to where you SHOULD be, Gungho Guides is a well designed, fold out, fit-into-your-back pocket guide with a city map and a wonderful online events calendar.
A great online directory of restaurant reviews, things to do and articles about our city.
A local arts magazine that is, in their words, “lending a voice to a subdued creative class of Richmond. RVA searches out the best artists, ideas, events, bands, photographers and culture-jammers Richmond has to offer and gives them a platform for exhibition that “gets” them.”
A weekly city newspaper with a good arts and events section.