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Richly memorable Richmond

by Eileene Woods


How often do people ask those returning from a trip, “What was the most significant and favorite remembrance of your travel?” Hence, if I encounter this, I will say, “Many, and here they are!”
Richmond, on the James River about 75 miles up river from Chesapeake Bay, is an unforgettable city. It was already industrialized at the beginning of the Civil War (or I may be corrected to say the War Between the States), and is still an important industrial & research center. Phillip Morris, first to sell rolled cigarettes, has a large research facility there. Another big name is Robbins of Robitussin Cough Syrup fame.
It is a beautiful city, with much red brick and ornamental iron work wherever your eye can fall. It has been the capital of Virginia since 1880 and was the capital of the Confederacy for three years under Jefferson Davis. The capital building was originally designed by Thomas Jefferson and renovated to welcome Queen Elizabeth on her visit to the states in the summer of 2007.
Another experience many will remember was the re-enactment of the famous meeting of the Second Virginia Convention (in Richmond instead of Williamsburg for safety’s sake). This was done in St. John’s Church with actors portraying the many famous men of the Colonial Period dressed in costumes of the time and seated among the audience in order to make it a reality drama. The unforgettable speech of Patrick Henry on that March 23, 1775 persuaded the Convention to arm a Virginia Militia. Who could forget his: “….I know not what course others might take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” This became the rallying cry for the American Revolution. It rings in your ears even today!
The Norfolk Naval Base with its impeccably dressed denizens – we saw only a few of the 52,000 who work there – together with the 47 battleships in port could easily scar one’s memory for years.
Another unexpected point of interest was the Douglas MacArthur Memorial in the old city hall of Norfolk. It was a 45 minute visit to the combined museum and gallery that turned out to be most enjoyable, thanks to the enthusiastic curator who was our guide. Thanks, also, to FICer Barb Fisher who having met him before, asked that he speak to our group. He had done his college thesis on the General and his knowledge and familiarity of his subject was not lost on us!
Perhaps Ashcroft Hall, the Tudor Manor House, might stay in your mind. It was built during the reign of Henry VIII in Lancashire, England. The Wilsons of Richmond rescued it from destruction by having it dismantled piece by piece and brought to Virginia. Or the Hollywood Cemetery might be a forget-me-not for some. Quite a few memorials with recognizable names were visible on the hilly terrain overlooking the James River.
These are a few of my thoughts. I’m sure that every participant FICer could add more.

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