Fountain at Kanawha Plaza is double-edged sword

Cascading fountain at Kanawha Plaza in downtown RichmondKanawha Plaza is at  Byrd and 9th streets, just north of the Federal Reserve Building. The park is surrounded by downtown Richmond’s most influential and important employers: The Fed, Dominion Virginia, banks, law offices, stock brokers — you name it.

The park sits above the Downtown Expressway and covers an entire city block. It has a concert stage and grassy lawn that is primarily used for Fridays at Sunset jazz and R&B concerts and occasional festivals.

The stage also provides shelter for many homeless that need a break from the sun during the day. Many homeless sleep on benches in Kanawha Plaza as well.

Image of fountain at Kanawha Plaza in downtown RichmondThe best feature of the park is the cascading fountain, which at the right time of day can look quite impressive among the tall buildings and busy streets.

Unfortunately, I’ve also witnessed the waters of the fountain double as a laundromat for the park’s homeless, and I can only assume that the next step would be bathtime. Not an attractive thought.

Don’t get me wrong. Homeless people getting “cleaned up” is an improvement. I’m sure it’s common in most big cities. Probably encouraged in Europe. I’ve seen plenty of examples along the James of what I assume are homeless bathing in the river.

I’m just not sure I want to happen by the park with out-of-towners enamored with a lovely fountain, only to witness laundry day.

The area is near the Canal Walk and near the former location of the Great Basin (from park signage):

Finished in 1800, the Great Basin was the eastern terminus of the Canal. It was a block wide and three blocks long and was located between Cary and Canal, and 8th and 12th Streets. The Basin was up to 50 feet deep and was probably made by damming a stream valley at its east end (12th Street). Warehouses and trading firms surrounded the Basin and the docks along its stone walls were active. In addition to allowing the long, narrow canalboats to turn around for the trip back up the Canal, the Basin supplied water to various mills around its edge. Railroad yards covered half the Basin in the 1880’s. By the 1920s the Basin had been completely covered over. Construction excavation on the site for the James center in 1983-86 yielded the hulls of batteaux, canalboats, and other artifacts of the canal era, some of which have been saved.

Kanawha Plaza is at  Byrd and 9th streets, just north of the Federal Reserve Building.

NOTE: I chose not to publish my photos of the homeless. I’m not trying to get anyone arrested or start trouble. Just a little disappointed in humanity.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Tiffany on October 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I think its silly to tell someone they are a poor representation of a decent human being for pointing out a reality. The homeless people have turned the plaza into a bathroom and shelter. Richmond needs to do something to address the issue… It’s not only unsanitary, it’s unsafe.


  2. If your “disappointment in humanity” derives from poor, hungry, homeless people being aesthetically displeasing to your delicate sensibilities then you are a poor representation of a decent human being.


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