Petersburg Things to Do

  • Confederate memorial at Blandford
    Confederate memorial at Blandford
    by b1bob
  • various tombs and monuments fairly near the church
    various tombs and monuments fairly near...
    by b1bob
  • Centre Hill Mansion (north porch)
    Centre Hill Mansion (north porch)
    by b1bob

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    Blandford Church & Cemetery

    by b1bob Updated Mar 30, 2013

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    Blandford Church
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    Blandford Church was built in 1735 as the main centre of worship. The building was abandoned 70 years later when a new church building in downtown Petersburg caused membership to fall off. In 1901, work began to restore the building for use as a Confederate Memorial chapel. As part of the restoration effort, the Ladies Memorial Association asked each Confederate state to help pay for creation and installation of a stained glass window in memory of the Confederate soldiers from that state. The Tiffany studio was commissioned to design the 15 memorial compass windows from 1904-1912. Each of the large windows contains the image of a Saint and symbols associated with the Saint. The four smaller windows were designed to complement the larger ones.

    The cemetery next to the Blandford Church has been used as a burial ground since the early eighteenth century. The oldest marked grave dates from 1702. In June 1866, the first Memorial Day was celebrated in honour of the thousands of Confederate soldiers buried on Memorial Hill inside the burial ground. The cemetery's gravestones, sculptures, and tombs show all kinds of styles of art depicting death. If weather permits, they conduct a walking tour of some of the monuments and burial sites nearest the church together with the church tour.

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    McIlwaine House (visitor's centre)

    by b1bob Updated Apr 30, 2010

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    McIlwaine House visitor's centre

    George Jones (an early mayor of Petersburg, not the country star) built this house in 1815. Between then and the time Archibald McIlwaine bought it in 1831, it changed hands several times. It is known for its beautiful woodwork and paneling. It was the former home of the Petersburg Visitor's Centre. As of April, 2010 the Visitor's Centre had moved to the Farmer's Bank building.

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    Brick House Run

    by b1bob Updated Apr 30, 2010

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    Brickhouse Run

    The Brick House Run pub, at the bottom of the Friend House at Cockade Alley and Bollingbrook Street, was substantially burned during the Great Fire of 1825 and has changed repeatedly across the years. Since the 1817 reincarnation as the double kitchen of Nathaniel Friend's Row has left its mark. As the kitchens for one of the finest homes in town, the building was occupied for many years by blacks for both cooking and living quarters. Brick House Run now serves as an English pub capitalising on its place in history. This will also be a restaurant tip when I try it out.

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    Centre Hill Mansion

    by b1bob Updated Apr 30, 2010

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    Centre Hill Mansion (south porch)
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    Centre Hill is a blend of Federal, Greek Revival and Colonial Revival architecture. Inside, the rooms are filled with wood and plaster work, and the furnishings reflect all of its owners across the years. It was completed by Robert Bolling in 1823, and improvements were made by his son Robert Buckner Bolling in the 1840s. Robert B. Bolling and his brother George Washington Bolling were Whigs and Unionists before the War Between the States, the latter standing for Congress as a Whig, but the former never forgave his son for siding with the North. On the afternoon of 7 April 1865, Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, Senator Charles Sumner, and the rest of their party called by carriage at Centre Hill, which became Federal Headquarters just days before. While the others toured the house, Lincoln spoke privately with a general about the mood of Petersburg's white population. When the general mentioned the government was renting the house from the Bollings, Lincoln on seeing the damage from Union shelling, joked that Grant's artillery had "made rent enough already." The house is at the head of Centre Hill Court which was developed in the 1920s and 1930s. It is now on the National Register as the Centre Hill Historic District.

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    Trapezium House

    by b1bob Written Apr 30, 2010

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    Trapezium

    This curious bit of architecture was built for Charles O'Hara round about 1817. Local legend has it that they built it with no right angles because a slave from the West Indes told Mr. O'Hara that ghosts live in right angles. Any way you cut it, this building stands out like a fly on a wedding cake.

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    The Farmer's Bank

    by b1bob Written Apr 30, 2010

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    Farmer's Bank

    Just across Cockade Alley is the Farmer's Bank. Built in 1817, it is one of the oldest surviving bank buildings in America. It was one of a chain of banks in early Virginia. The first floor was dedicated to banking, while the upper floors were used to house the managing cashier of the bank. Inside, the building was restored as it was in the 1820s and 1830s and gives good insight to how banks worked early in American history. As of April, 2010 it houses the Visitor's Centre.

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    The Friend House

    by b1bob Written Apr 30, 2010

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    Friend House

    At the top of Cockade Alley, to your left, stands the Nathaniel Friend House. It was built for him in 1816. Friend was an early mayor of the city. It is a three-storey double townhouse with dormers and a slate roof. On the first floor of the Bollingbrook side were two stores (as of April, 2010 a therapeutic massage centre and a sushi restaurant), while above them were two flats finished with woodwork and mantles. The whole structure was built in Flemish bond and was valued at more than $20000 (that was a pretty penny back then).

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    Petersburg National Battlefield

    by b1bob Updated Dec 6, 2008

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    Confederate Battery cannon
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    Almost 1/4 of the entire War Between the States was fought around Petersburg as Generals Lee and Grant wrestled for control of the railroads and supply lines the Confederacy needed for survival. Petersburg National Battlefield tells the story of the 10-month siege that caused the collapse of Richmond and General Lee's army. A highlight of the Eastern front driving tour which David and I did on his return trip in November, 2008, is the Battle of the Crater. In an effort to punch a hole in the Confederates' defensive fortifications and capture Petersburg, a Union regiment from a coal mining region in Pennsylvania dug a tunnel 510 feet (155 m.) long under a part of Lee's line. On 30 July 1864 they lit the fuse and 4 tons of gunpowder exploded, instantly killing and wounding 278 Confederate soldiers and creating a crater 25 feet (8 m.) deep and 180 feet (55 m.) long. It seemed like a good idea for them at the time, but good luck turned to bad when a bunch of Yankee troops, instead of skirting the hole, ran right slap into the smouldering crater. More Yankees were forced into the pit during a Confederate counterattack. The Confederate lines held and the Yankees lost their chance to capture Petersburg right then and there. General Grant would later comment that this was the saddest affair he had ever witnessed in the war.

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    U.S. Army Quartermaster's Museum

    by b1bob Written Nov 2, 2008

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    Quartermaster's Museum
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    Most folks have heard in passing about the quartermasters, but many aren't certain about what they really do. Well, to sum it up so it will fit on a bumper sticker, they make sure the trains run on time. These are the folks in charge of moving tons of food, clothing, and ammunitions to troops all across the world. The quartermasters started at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775. The museum has 11 galleries that show how the quartermasters have provided logistical support from Valley Forge to the current Worldwide War Against Terror. It was hard to narrow down 5 pictures for this tip, but I got George Patton's World War II jeep, General Grant's saddle, and the first 50-state U.S. flag issued 4 July 1960. Many folks don't think about this, but the quartermasters are also in charge of mortuary affairs. Those who enter that line of service get trained right there at Fort Lee. This museum is the nation's fourth largest army museum.

    The one thing I didn't like was the brochure said the gift shop was opened every day the museum was open. However, David and I get there and the sign says it's closed Sunday and Monday.

    Admission is free. Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Visitors must use the Lee Avenue Gate on Route 36 (picture ID, vehicle registration/insurance or car hire agreement required).

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    U.S. Army Women's Museum

    by b1bob Written Nov 2, 2008

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    U.S. Army Women's Museum
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    This museum honours women's contributions to the Army from the Revolution to present day. There are plenty of artifacts, interactive exhibits, historical displays, and photographs throughout the galleries. The exhibit mostly traces the history of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women's Army Corps during World War II. Because the Army realised they needed women in the service Congress passed and President Truman signed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act in June, 1948. This established both the active and reserve women's elements as a permanent part of each branch of service. Women continue to play a vital role, having achieved the top officer and enlisted ranks. In the current War On Terror, women soldiers are doing essentially anything the men are doing.

    Admission is free. Open Tuesday-Friday 10am-5pm; Saturday-Sunday 11am-5pm; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Visitors must use the Lee Avenue Gate on Route 36 (picture ID, vehicle registration/insurance or car hire agreement required).

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    Weston Manor

    by b1bob Written Oct 17, 2008

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    Weston Manor (Hopewell)
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    In nearby Hopewell, Weston Manor is mighty hard to find and, without a G.P.S., I'll bet you will have to stop somewhere and ask directions no matter how good you are. It was built in 1789 by the Gilliam family. The house, which overlooks the Appomattox River, is located in a part of Virginia where English settlement goes back to 1613. It is the only surviving plantation house along the Appomattox River. The others' downfall is due to either the shelling during the siege and simple disrepair. The Gilliams were an early rags to riches story. They got here in the 17th Century as indentured servants but by the end of the 18th Century, they owned several local plantations. Weston Manor is noted for preserving a lot of its original interior. It is furnished with period antiques and reproductions. While tickets to most plantations still open to tourists run upwards of $10, parts of the house are closed to the public. At Weston Manor, the tickets run for $5 and you get to tour the whole house and the summer kitchen (the old laundry building now serves as the gift shop). The winter kitchen is in the stone basement which helped protect the house from fire and it helped to heat the house. Aside from its remote location, the only other potential inconvenience is that they only give tours from 1 April to 31 October.

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    Siege Museum

    by b1bob Updated Oct 17, 2008

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    Siege Museum

    This Greek Revival building was built between 1839 and 1841. It was originally designed as a commodities exchange for area farmers and merchants and it is one of few remaining buildings of the kind in America. It was only used as an exchange for 10 years because (and I'm not making this up: that's what the guide told me) agricultural traders felt guilty about getting the floors of this ornate building dirty. Currently, it is home to an extensive collection of artifacts telling the story of civilian life during the ten-month siege of Petersburg at the tail end of the War Between the States. This is the longest siege on American soil. The tour begins by a film (narrated by the late Petersburg-born actor Joseph Cotten in 1976) explaining life when Petersburg was a city under siege. After the film, the guide shows you the museum chock full of rare artifacts and writings. As of October, 2008, admission for adults runs $5. It is open daily 10 a.m. through to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

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    Petersburg Courthouse

    by b1bob Updated Oct 16, 2008

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    Petersburg Courthouse

    As you walk down Sycamore Street, you will pass by the courthouse built between 1837 and 1839. It was the official Confederate headquarters during the siege of Petersburg. Local volunteers signed up to enlist in the War Between the States. On 9 June 1864, its bell tolled warning the local militia to meet the advancing Yankee cavalry. During the siege, both sides could see the courthouse clock from the trenches and set their timepieces by it. When Petersburg fell on 3 April 1865, the Union flag waved above it.

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