Any discussion of must see activities must begin with the classic structure of the Virginia Capital Building (even if it is the last site that you see, as was the case for me).
If you spend any time in Virginia, you soon come to realize that the influences of Thomas Jefferson are everywhere. Mr. Jefferson was a wordsmith (drafted the Declaration of Independence) as well as a brilliant architect. In 1785 the newly formed State of Virgina requested that Jefferson design its new capitol building. Jefferson was heavily influenced by Roman and Greek architecture and chose a "temple" style for the Virginia statehouse.
I must admit a fondness for rotundas on state capitol buildings, but I cannot find fault with this pure and simple form of architecture. It is breathtaking even on the rainiest and gloomiest of days.
An abridged version of the famous Patrick Henry call to arms on March 23, 1775:
"No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.....
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?....Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction?....The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
the virginia state capitol has been in continuous use since 1788 and is the second oldest capitol building in america. the virginia state capitol was designed by thomas jefferson and was inspired by the maison carre in nimes france. during the civil war the virginia state capitol was the second capitol of the confederacy. the virginia state capitol is listed on the national register of historic places. this beautiful building is open to the public by guided and self guided tours. for more information see the attached web site.
located on capitol square is the massive washington statue. george washington was a revolutionary war general and the first president of the united states of america. the base of the statue is flanked by the statues of thomas jefferson, patrick henry, andrew lewis, george mason, john marshall, and thomas nelson. the washington statue was cast in germany and was erected in 1858.
The Capitol of VA is one of the 3 most gorgeous capitol's in the country. It runs a close second with South Carolina's Capitol. The VA Capitol square has a rich history dating back to the 1700's. It's entrance has a collection of statues with George Washington towering over 5 other VA founding fathers. The square is a perfect place to have a picnic lunch on a cool spring day. The Capitol is under current renonvation for the 400th Anniversary for Jamestown, which I encourage everyone who reads this to visit in 2007. The Capitol will have a underground vistor's center, a restaurant, and some office space. This will be under the grounds in front of the capitol. A walk around Capitol square will also reveal a tribute to Virginia's most powerful Governor Harry Byrd, and the Governor's Mansion, which is a modern architectural beauty, and is considered one of the more lavish governor's quarters in the country. This is a must see if you visit Richmond. One visit here will blow your mind, and leave you with a real sense of why Richmond is so important to the country.
harry f. byrd was a decendant of william byrd II, the founder of richmond and robert "king" carter one of the richest planters in colonial virginia. byrd was the 50 th governor of virginia and a U.S. senator. byrd was a vehement segregationist and was best known as a signer of the "southern manifesto" in 1956. harry f. byrd is an interesting character in U.S. history.
thomas "stonewall" jackson was a famous confederate general during the civil war. jackson was a general in the army of northern virginia and was best known for his defeat of union forces in the battle of manassas. jackson was killed by "friendly" fire in may 1862 during the battle of chancellorsville.
hunter holmes mc guire was a famous virginia physician and educator. during the civil war he was chief surgeon for thomas "stonewall" jackson's forces in northern virginia. after jackson was shot at chancellorsville mc guire amputated jackson's arm in an effort to save his life. after the civil war mc guire became chair of the medical college of virginia.
edgar allan poe was a famous american author, poet, and literary critic. poe was born in boston and was taken in by john and frances allan of richmond after the death of his mother. poe attended the university of virginia and in 1827 enlisted in the U.S. army. poe served at fort independence in boston and fort moultrie in south carolina. edgar allan poe is best known for his poems, "the raven" and "annabell lee". he also wrote the novels, "the pit and the pendulum" and "the murders in the rue morgue".
the executive mansion also known as the governor's mansion is located next to the virginia capitol in downtown richmond. the executive mansion was built in 1811 and was designed by architect alexander parris. during the civil war the executive mansion was used for offices of the confederacy. the executive mansion is listed on the national register of historic places. the executive mansion is open by tour. for more information see the attached web sites.
Shortly after voting for the Declaration of Independance, the capital of Virginia was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond (1780) and the State Capitol was built around 1788. Tours of the building and its grounds (Capitol Square) are free. You will learn about the building's architecture and the numerous busts and statues that decorate the place.
Note: The entrance for visitors is on the side of the building. You should have seen the look on the security guard's face when we entered through the front door!!
Thomas Jefferson was chosen by the Directors of Public Buildings to find an architect to build a worthy Capitol for Virginia. At the time, Jefferson was serving as Minister to France and he chose the well-known French architect, Charles-Louis Clerisseau. Jefferson's inspiration was his appreciation for the Greek Revival style and more specifically, the Maison Carree, a Roman temple in Nimes, France. The building was begun in 1785 and completed in 1788, making it the second oldest working Capitol in the United States.
The Virginia State Capitol Dome was the first interior dome in the country. This means that the roof is an "A" frame from the outside and that the dome is visible only from inside. It beautiful crowns the Capitol rotunda and is decorated with Renaissance style ornamentation.
The statue of George Washington that stands beneath the interior dome of the Capitol is the only one in the world for which the first president actually posed. Our tour guide, Mrs. Tarpin stressed this point proudly and reminded us that this is indeed an authentic spitting image. In addition to its authenticity, it is probably the most priceless marble statue in the United States. The artist was Jean Antoine Houdon and he completed the statue in 1788, but it was not shipped to the New World until 1796.
The details of the Washington statue are very impressive. It is made from Carrara marble from one slab and you will be able to see even the stitching in the boots and the veins of his hands. Surrounding the Washington statue in the Rotunda are the busts of seven other Virginia-born Presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson. There is also a statue on the Marquis de Lafayette, which serves as a permanent reminder of Virginia's gratitude to him and his friendship with Washinton.
This life-sized statue of the Confederate General was done by Rudolph Evans. Along with many other busts, it gracefully adorns the old House chamber. You'll also find the mace of the House of Delegates, an Edwardian style object purchased in England as a symbol of a long English tradition. Historically, the King's bodyguard would carry the golden mace to protect his Majesty when traveling among the people.