Posts Tagged ‘Shockoe Bottom’

‘Connecticut’ found a new home at Lucky Strike in Shockoe Bottom

Statue of 'Connecticut' in Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia.WHAT: Statue of “Connecticut” in Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia.

WHERE: Lucky Strike building at 2700 East Cary Street in Shockoe Bottom.

'Connecticut' viewed from Great Shiplock ParkARTIST: Paul Dipasquale

DEDICATED: November 6, 2010. (September 10, 1983 at The Diamond)

DESCRIPTION: This fiberglass and resin composition resembles a giant Indian brave peering out over a parapet. The statue measures 25 feet by 13 feet by 9 feet and weighs 2,400 pounds. It now overlooks the James River in the area near Great Shiplock Park

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The statue had been a mainstay at The Diamond during much of the Richmond Braves time at the baseball stadium, on loan from the artist. When the Braves moved out of town, the idea of a tribute to Native Americans at the stadium diminished, prompting the need to find a new home for Connecticut. 

The Lucky Strike building was one of three finalists for the 25-year-old statue, including Powhatan and Henrico high schools, in that order. The board said that the Lucky Strike location provided the sculpture with the most visibility to the public.

In a news release from Odell Associates, “Connecticut,” from the Native American word Quinnehtukqut, translates “beside the long tidal river.” Sculptor Paul DiPasquale chose this name because of his original intention to unveil this monumental tribal tribute in Washington, D.C., along the tidal Potomac River.

With the selection of Lucky Strike @ Power Plant as Connecticut’s home, the Indian finally rests as intended, beside the long tidal river — the James River. The Power Plant @ Lucky Strike is a joint venture between Mac Partners and Odell Associates. This historic landmark recognized in 2009 by the American Institute of Architects and Greater Richmond Area Commercial Real Estate as an Award winning Historical Adaptive Re-Use project.


Will the Canal Walk ever become a tourist hub?

Canal Walk and the Turning Basin in downtown Richmond, Va.It has been more than 10 years since the completion of the Canal Walk and while beautifully landscaped walkways may have replaced the abandoned wasteland that frequently hosted bonfires set by Richmond ’s homeless, the promise of the area remains unfulfilled.

The Canal Walk is a 1.25-mile greenway that connects Tredegar Ironworks to 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom. It features a series of markers and signs that interpret Richmond ’s history and provides a link to many of downtown’s best attractions. And while there has been some commercial development, it hasn’t developed into a tourist hub.

Last week, Richmond City Council unanimously approved a special-use permit to relieve some zoning requirements for a development proposed for the 6-acre Reynolds Packaging Group’s North Plant property along the Canal Walk at 12th and East Byrd streets.

WVS Cos. and Fountainhead Development LLC plan to build more than 225 apartments in a mixed-use development that should remove the Canal Walk’s biggest roadblock.

For more on the status of the Canal Walk, see

I miss Chetti’s Cow and Clam Tavern

I miss Chetti’s Cow and Clam Tavern. That old dingy, beer-soaked place was always a great time and the usual ending for me and my buddies when we hit Shockoe Bottom back in the 1990s.

Probably what I miss more is that time in my life, but a recent meal with a group of friends at the restaurant that occupies the old Chetti’s jogged my memory.

Lu Lu's is where Chetti's used to be in Shockoe BottomLu Lu’s opened at 21 North 17th Street in November 2007 in the old Chetti’s. It was opened by Millie’s co-owner Paul Keevil and longtime chef Steve Jurina it claims to serve “Southern gourmet comfort food at a reasonable prices.”

After my great meal (pan-fried cornmeal crusted Carolina trout with dirty rice and tasso ham gravy), I can’t argue.

Chetti’s Cow and Clam Tavern closed its doors for good September 30, 2000, after 12 years in the business.  The walls were exposed brick. The decor was stickers and fliers on the wall and other random “artwork.” It usually smelled like seafood and stale beer (which is good, especially after midnight). I can’t recall ever beginning a night there. Heck, I can’t recall that I ever ate a meal there completely sober. At least not on purpose.

There were many other places in Shockoe Bottom at that time that we loved: Awful Arthur’s, Castle Thunder, Good Fellas, Calipso, The Floodzone, Sunset Grill, Rock Bottom Pizza, etc. We did our partying at other places and always planned to meet at Chetti’s when we were done. 

We didn’t go there for the food, but it was a nice bonus. The drivers needed to sober up or figure out if we needed cabs and the drunks needed a Moister-Oyster shooter or something worse to finish them off.  Plus, we’d usually cave in to whatever fried, greasy, delicious, hang-over preventing items Ray Chetti and his staff could sell us.

Lu Lu's restaurant in Shockoe BottomWhen I first sat in Lu Lu’s, it hadn’t occurred to me that we were in the old Chetti’s. The decor in Lu Lu’s is nice and artistic. There are new windows and they are clean. The exposed brick walls are a very light shade of yellow. Nice local artwork, framed and well-lit. There is open space where a brick dividing wall used to be and the place didn’t have a smell.

After about five minutes, my internal GPS went off and I stepped back about 15 years into the mid-90s again. Doh! Of all my alcohol-enhanced fuzzy nights that ended there, there are great memories: 

  • My boy Rusty openly and brashly stealing many bottles of Grolsh beer from Ray’s personal refrigerator over the course of an hour, getting him madder than the steamed oysters on the half shell.
  • My boy Woody and I talking with the pot-bellied bouncer every night. We called him “Sweet Pea” — after the boxer Oliver “Sweet Pea” Whitaker.  We loved that bouncer.
  • I also remember the night he chased Woody all the way up Walnut Alley after he skipped out on a bill. It was the slowest most hilarious “footrace” since the famous Kozo-Woody race in our college days.
  • Woody’s infatuation with the blonde waitress that worked there. She never listened to him much, and didn’t even less after the incident with the unpaid bill.
  • My boy Tom systematically destroying people while playing quarters when the waitstaff wasn’t looking.
  • My boy Rausch and his fabulous girlfriend/wife play fighting over who drank more. Come to think of it, that happened more than once…and there were other relationships built/lost in that old place.   

The bars and restaurants of our youth may be gone, but the memories last.  Uh, at least as much as the alcohol will allow.

Richmond’s Slave Trail

The Richmond Slave Trail Commission released Tuesday a master plan for a potentially $150 million heritage site in Shockoe Bottom, including a slavery museum and African-American genealogical center [Times-Dispatch & NBC12]. The focus is on the site of Lumpkin’s Jail.

Lumpkin's Jail

Lumpkin's Jail

I have closely followed the progress of the slave trail, I’ve photographed and studied it [slideshow], and I’ve admired the work of the Commission in creating and developing the 2.5 mile path retracing the steps taken by so many slaves during Richmond’s infamous time as a hub for slave trade. Here is an excerpt from Summer 2007 on the slave trail from the now expired website:

The City Council established the Richmond Slave Trail Commission in the late 1990s to raise the level of awareness and informational accuracy about Richmond’s role in the slave trade. Although the first slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619, Richmond did not play a major part in the business of enslavement until after the United States banned the importation of Africans from oversees in 1808. Businesses emerged to fill the demand for the purchase, sale, and delivery of enslaved African-Americans.

Realizing a general lack of knowledge about the slave trade — once so integral to Richmond — the Slave Trail Commission developed a walking trail that would physically outline the paths countless slaves traveled on their demoralizing journey through forced servitude.

Research uncovered the existence of several dozen slave businesses in Shockoe Bottom along with the long-vanished Burial Ground for Negroes and the site of Lumpkin’s slave jail: the tragic landscape where many enslaved African-Americans were severed from their families.

Reconciliation Statue

Reconciliation Statue

I was there to cover the unveiling of the Reconciliation statue [slideshow], which was dedicated March 31, 2007. It is a fitting tribute and a good addition to the slave trail.  There are identical statues in Liverpool, England, and Benin, West-Africa — completing the triangle. 

James River Park System manager Ralph White has been a huge proponent of the slave trail, and he has spoken with me about the efforts by his staff to ensure the trail is clean and cared for — above and beyond their call of duty, which is the norm for Ralph and crew. 

Manchester Docks

Manchester Docks

In my efforts to help educate people with multimedia, I created a video (likely expired) that I was quite proud of that included an intro — from my kayak — approaching the Manchester Docks as if the camera was on board a slave trade ship arriving in Richmond. I remember that day well, and it gave me chills.

I’ve also walked the slave trail from the docks heading west, through the overhanging trees and thorny underbrush. Slaves were mostly transported at night so as not to disturb the people of Richmond. They were often badly malnourished, beaten and sick. If you walk the trail at dusk and darker, you can — if only for a moment — get a glimpse of what the slaves may have experienced as they were dropped into the New World.

Here is the text from the video, describing the trail [via RTD]:

1. Manchester Docks
In the pre-Revolutionary period Manchester was a busy slave market. Around 1776, the market moved to Richmond with the James River serving as a major avenue for transporting enslaved Africans.

2. Slave Trade Path
The Slave Trade path along the James River reflects the transition Africans had to make between their homelands and the strange new world. They quickly understood that their chained walk toward an unknown future held no promise and many dangers.

3. Mayo’s Bridge
John Mayo built his first toll bridge here in 1788 to connect Richmond and Manchester, and it has remained a crossing of the river ever since. On the north side of the river was the Shockoe Valley. The financial prominence of this part of the city dates to the 19th century, in which the slave trade and slave-financed industry generated exorbitant amounts of capital to be invested.

4. Kanawha Canal
The late 18th-century construction era required a large, mostly slave labor force. African-Americans dug the canal. Numerous African-American boatmen traversed the canal, while black Richmonders carted cargo to and from the boats. The canal became another means for shipping slaves.

5. Auction Houses
There were several dozen such houses in Shockoe Bottom, typically selling human “goods” along with corn, coffee, and other commodities. Some sales were part of a larger business; other auctioneers dealt exclusively in slaves. Most slave commerce was concentrated in the roughly 30-block area bounded by Broad, 15th, and 19th Streets and the river.

6. Reconciliation Statue
Identical statues in Liverpool, England, Benin, West-Africa; and Richmond, Virginia, memorialize the British, African, and American triangular trade route, now identified as the Reconciliation Triangle.

7. Lumpkin’s Jail
Enslaved Africans referred to Lumpkin’s Jail as “the Devil’s Half Acre,” reflecting the despair and anger of people separated forever from their families. In 1867, Mary Lumpkin, a black woman and widow of the jail’s owner, Robert Lumpkin, boosted post-Civil War black education when she rented complex to a Christian school, which evolved into Virginia Union University.

8. Negro Burial Ground
Many of Richmond’s first citizens lie in unmarked graves here. Richmond’s gallows was above on the hillside. Executed here was Gabriel, an articulate, literate 24-year-old blacksmith from Thomas Henry Prosser’s Brookfield Plantation. Gabriel and his colleagues believed that God’s laws entitled them to equal station with men and women of all races. They conspired in 1800 to take over the Virginia government in an extensive campaign, which was betrayed at the last minute.

9. First African Baptist Church
The First African Baptist Church was founded in 1841. The church became a center for Christian worship and an anchor for African-American community development at a time when gatherings outside for church were prohibited.