If Our Walls Could Talk By
We are lucky to be in such a historic area and love coming to work in such a lovely building. Our grand old place withstood last week’s earthquake and while we spent some time without power following Irene we made it through the hurricane also. We thought we’d take some time today and look back at where our neighborhood came from.
The city of Richmond has had a long and colorful history. It was founded in 1737 and was once the most heavily populated city in the south. It is kind of like New York with very distinct neighborhoods or ‘boroughs’. Church Hill, The Fan, Jackson Ward, Oregon Hill, and our home, Shockoe Slip. Shockoe Slip gets it’s name from two sources. The “Shockoe” refers to Shockoe Creek which loosely defined the border of Richmond in its early days. The local population called the large flat stones in the creek “Shacquohocan” and one can assume we found “Shockoe” easier to pronounce. In the 1850’s work began to direct the creek through a series of arches towards the James River. Much of downtown and our neighborhood was built on top of these arches. It was a failure of the channels under these arches that led to the flooding of 2004 from Hurricane Gaston. The reservoir at the end of Shockoe Creek that was supposed to pump water into the James during Gaston was built in 1927 and is still in use today. The “slip” part of our name refers to the boat slips that ran along the canals.
Richmond kind of is where it is because of the Hollywood Rapids (the best urban whitewater in North America!). Back in the days before the interstate highway the river was the main source of commercial travel. Boats traveling up from the Chesapeake would stop at Richmond, transfer their cargo (sometimes human) and switch to canals until they again found flat water northwest of town. The Slip actually predates Richmond to some extent. It was the first commercial center in the city. William Byrd (yes, that William Byrd) initially had a small trading post in our neighborhood during the 1600’s. He liked the proximity to the river and the higher elevation which protected it from flooding, unlike our neighbor Shockoe Bottom. Our building and those of our neighbors were once warehouses for storing tobacco, cotton and other goods to be auctioned off for transport to other parts of our growing country.
We almost lost Shockoe Slip during the Civil War when Union troops tried to burn Richmond down. We came back with a vengeance from that one. Gaston left us plenty wet but we dried off a lot quicker than our friends further down Cary Street. The earthquake shook us up (no pun intended). Irene left us in the dark for a few days but some candles and some organic goodies kept our spirits up (some biodynamic spirits helped!).
Our Grand Old Gal at 1217 East Cary Street has seen a whole lot in her day. She’s put up with a whole lot of abuse, too!
We don’t offer ourselves history experts but we enjoy taking a look back. Take a look around the next time you visit us. If our walls could talk….