There was "no place so strong, so pleasant and delightful in Virginia, for which we called it Nun-such." So wrote Captain John Smith about the site he chose in 1609 when he established the first English settlement near the falls of the James River. This was to grow into Richmond, named for Richmond-upon-Thames, now a borough of London. This Richmond became the capitol of Virginia and was once capitol of the Confederacy.
The White House of the Confederacy (now part of the Confederacy Museum) was a four-story, Greek-style house that now housed the largest collection of Confederate artifacts in the world, such as Robert E. Lee's sword, the Confederacy's constitution, and Stonewall Jackson's stuffed and mounted horse. Confederate General Robert E. Lee came to this house (war-time home of his family) after surrendering. One of the most famous photographs of Lee was made here on the back porch after portraitist (and one of Hopper's favorite photographers) Matthew Brady persuaded the general to pose. The photo looks like it might have been taken at dusk, and the sun was certainly setting on that chapter of American history.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church here was called the "Cathedral of the Confederacy" because of Lee's attendance (when in town) and Jefferson Davis's attendance regularly. While in Sunday services here, Davis received word that Lee's army had broken and that the Confederate government should evacuate. Ironically, 90 years earlier, Patrick Henry had delivered his "liberty or death" speech at nearby St. John's Episcopal Church.
Richmond was still the state capitol, home to the oldest legislative body in the U.S. and the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere. As I admired the Greek temple Capitol building designed by Jefferson, cars rolled by whose sides read "Virginia Capitol Police: established 1618." A Houdon statue in the Lobby is considered the most valuable piece of marble sculpture in the country,
and is the city of Richmond's symbol and the main feature of the seal of the Confederate States of America because Jefferson Davis was sworn in as president of the Confederacy beneath it. From niches in the encircling wall of the lobby glare down busts of the seven Virginia-born Presidents of the United States--more than any other state.
The neighboring governor's mansion could be in a Hopper painting. So could the building across from the capitol--a magnificent gray Gothic Richardsonian Romanesque court building that reminded me of Hopper's House by the Railroad.