History of Richmond
The area of present-day Richmond originally belonged to Powhatan tribes. In 1607, when Captain John Smith landed in Jamestown, he sent a group of men to travel down the James River and explore the area. After a week, they came up to an area with waterfalls on the river and a small island. Even though this was the first discovery of Richmond area, it would be another thirty years before the foundation of the first settlement. Attempts were made to establish a fort or a post in the area, but they were futile because of the constant conflicts with the Algonquin tribes who were displaced from the Jamestown area.
A trading post was set up in 1637 at a location where the river became navigable, near present-day Richmond. The owner of the claim offered tax liberation to whoever would come to live there. Not many accepted the offer, but over the years, thanks to other privileges offered to the potential homesteaders, the population grew slowly but steadily. The town of Richmond was officially laid out in 1737. Even though it hosted three very important conventions of the pre-Revolutionary period (including Patrick Henry’s famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech), Richmond grew very slowly, even after it became the capital of Virginia in 1779. The real growth started after the Revolutionary War and in 1782 Richmond was incorporated as a city.
Before the Civil War, Richmond had already become an important port and a major commercial and industrial center. Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861 and Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy. Civil War was hard on the city. It was under siege by the Union troops for four years but never saw an actual battle. In 1865, it was destroyed almost completely when the Confederates set fire to warehouses as they escaped the city.
Still, it seems that the war sparked a new industrial boom in Richmond. Tobacco and iron were still dominant industrial sectors but after the war banking was established as a new large sector in the city.
Racial tensions grew severe in the 20th century, especially in the 1950, when Richmond vehemently fought school desegregation. The complete integration in the city was achieved in the 1970s.
During the 1980s and the 1990s, Richmond made efforts to diversify its economy and to bring in new industries. Today, the city is a large manufacturing center but also a hub for state and federal government, health care, research, trade, banking and transportation. Richmond and its officials and locals continue to work towards making a thriving city of the “New South.”
Geography and Climate
Richmond is located in the Piedmont region of Virginia, at the fall line of the James River (i.e. the highest navigable point at the river). Two other rivers in the city are Appomattox and Chickahominy rivers. The city occupies 62.5 square miles (of which 2.5 square miles is water) and lies in the Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5).
The climate in Richmond is humid subtropical, with mild winters and hot and humid summers. The city is susceptible to flooding, especially due to hurricanes, which are not rare in the area.
At the 2000 Census, the racial makeup in Richmond was 57.2% African American, 38.3% White, 2.6% Hispanic or Latino, 1.3% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.5% from some other race and 1.5% from two or more races.
Richmond used to have very high criminal rates in the 1980s and 1990s and a very high murder rate. In 2004 and 2005 it was ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the USA. Today the crime rates are declining but they still remain above the national average.
In 200, the median household income in Richmond was $31,121 and the per capita income was $20,337.
Economy and Business
Richmond is home to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Genworth Financial, CapitalOne, Philip Morris USA and many other banks and financial institutions. It is also home of some of the largest law firms in the country (Williams Mullen, Hunton and Williams, LeClairRyan and others). Other large companies with headquarters in the city include The Martin Agency, CarMax, Dominion Resources, Markel, Universal Corporation, Genworth Financial, Altria Group and others.
Culture and Attractions
Notable museums and monuments in Richmond include Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Center for Architecture, American Civil War Center, Museum of Confederacy, Richmond National Battlefield Park, St. John’s Church, Edgar Allan Poe Museum, as well as many monuments and memorials along the Monument Avenue.
The city has a thriving art community and a strong DIY scene, both for visual arts and for the music. It has a large punk and metal scene, with bands such as Gwar, Lamb of God, Municipal Waste, Avail, Darkest Hour and many others. The city is also home to Virginia Opera, Richmond Symphony and many theatrical companies, such as Barksdale Theatre and Theatre IV.
Major venues in Richmond include the Landmark Theatre, The Leslie Cheek Theater Richmond Center Stage and the National Theater.
Richmond area has several institutions of higher education, most notably the Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond, Virginia Union University, Virginia College, John Tyler Community College and Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
The city is served by Richmond International Airport located in Sandston, with nine airlines and over 200 flights daily.
Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound Bus Lines and Megabus. Greater Richmond Transit Company provides local transit by bus. Passenger rail service is provided by Amtrak.
Major highways in and around Richmond include I-95, I-64 and I-295.