A Visit to Poe and Washington (in Richmond)

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P1020790Hopefully, most everyone knows that Richmond is the capital of Virginia. It was moved there from Williamsburg in 1780. It’s had a storied history (as native Richmonders are very happy to convey). At the end of the Civil War, Richmond, also the capital of the Confederacy, was abandoned and much was burned as the Confederates evacuated. Luckily, a few spots survived, many thanks to Abraham Lincoln, who ordered troops to not destroy the capital building.

We’re only two hours from Richmond, so we decided on a quick trip to see a couple of sites we’d never visited (or at least hadn’t been there for many decades).

First off, one of our favorite authors, Edgar Allan Poe.

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Many people don’t realize that E.A.P. grew up, fairly unhappily, in Richmond, as a foster child of a wealthy couple. The Poe Museum, founded in 1922,  shows off much of his life, showcasing furniture and writing of his. The entrance building is the oldest still standing in Richmond. Even though no buildings where Poe lived or worked still stand, the museum has collected a great deal from his time in Richmond. There’s a lovely garden, based on one of his poems, a recreation of his bedroom, lots of manuscripts, and a great deal of knowledge to be gained.

Poe's bed as a youth.

Poe’s bed as a youth

The garden, based on the poem "To One In Paradise"

The garden, based on the poem “To One In Paradise”

Hmm, what was quoteth again?

Hmm, what was quoteth again?

The Poe Museum is an excellent place to catch up on Mr. Poe. We learned a lot, and it whetted our appetite to re-read his works.

We stopped for lunch a few blocks away at The Hill Cafe.  This is a terrific neighborhood dining spot where Bill had maybe the best BLT he’s ever had (with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese).

From there, it was off to the State Capital Building. It was virtually rebuilt about 10 years ago, and we hadn’t visited since before children.

You start out in an underground visitors’ center which gives a history of the building (originally designed, of course, by Thomas Jefferson.  We learned that as it was built, much changed from his design).

Mr. Jefferson guarding a guard

Mr. Jefferson guarding a guard

You can have either a guided or self-guided tour.  We chose the latter, since time was moving on.  Once in the building, we met with a volunteer who, with her lilting Richmond accent, gave us some information on the building, including its use in the filming of “Lincoln” where it stood in for the U.S. Capital building.  Native Virginians get to start on the third floor, where paintings of former governors hang.  Bill was impressed by the number of governors there have been in his lifetime.  One reason for that is the fact that, unique to Virginia, governors can only serve one term.

The main attraction is the life sized statue of George Washington, carved by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1796.

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The old General Assembly rooms are open to the public.

One of the original chambers

One of the original chambers

It’s very impressive to realize the historical events that took place in these rooms, everything from the treason trial of Aaron Burr, to the secession vote.

The current Senate and House of Delegates chambers are a bit bigger and more technologically up to date.

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The Senate Chamber

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The House of Delegates Chamber

 

All in all it was a very fun and educational day.  The only bad part was driving back into Hampton Roads during rush hour, so the trip home took a lot longer than the trip up.  Next time, maybe an overnighter. We’ve still got plenty of sites to see in Richmond.

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