Richmond, Virginia, the state capital. It is an independent city surrounded by Henrico and Chesterfield counties. Richmond is in eastern Virginia on the James River at the head of navigation, or the Falls. It is 110 miles (177 km) southwest of Washington, D.C. During 1861-65, Richmond was capital of the Confederate States of America.
The city was first built on seven hills on the north side of the James, but now spreads over both banks of the river and north and south into rolling country. The climate is temperate with an average temperature of 38° F. (3° C.) in January, the coldest month; and 78° F. (26° C.) in July, the warmest and wettest. Annual rainfall is about 42 inches (1,070 mm).
As the seat of the Federal Reserve bank of the fifth district, Richmond is the financial center of Virginia and neighboring states. The city is also a center of distribution also; it is served by many roads and railways and has a deepwater port.
Richmond is one of the world's largest tobacco markets. The major industries here produce tobacco products (especially cigarettes), clothing, chemicals, synthetic textiles, processed foods, and paper goods. Printing and publishing are also important industries.
Richmond is the home of the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has one of the largest collections in the South and was among the first to use “artmobiles” (trucks that are traveling museums). Its theatrical, music, and dance presentations are also sent on statewide tours. The Valentine Museum maintains the Wickham-Valentine House, built in 1812.
There are many buildings of historical significance in Richmond, among them former homes of noted persons. The Old Stone House, part of the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, is thought to have been built about 1688 and has mementos of the poet's life. The John Marshall House, built by Marshall about 10 years before he became chief justice in 1801, contains many of its original furnishings. The White House of the Confederacy is furnished as it was when occupied by Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. The adjacent Museum of the Confederacy exhibits many relics of that era.
St. John's Church, built in 1741, is a national historic landmark. Here, in 1775, Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Nearby is the state capitol, designed by Thomas Jefferson. Hollywood Cemetery, west of the capitol, contains the graves of Jefferson Davis, John Randolph of Roanoke, Presidents Monroe and Tyler, Generals J. E. B. Stuart and George E. Pickett, and some 18,000 Confederate soldiers. Near the city is Richmond National Battlefield Park, containing Civil War fortifications.
Richmond has a mayor and a city council. As an independent city, it is not part of a county. The city owns the gas and electric plants.
The Richmond area was explored in 1607 by Captain Christopher Newport's party, which set up a cross at the Falls. Fort Charles was built there in 1644. In 1737 Colonel William Byrd founded Richmond, which was incorporated as a town in 1742. The Second and Third Virginia Conventions of the Revolution met here in 1775. Richmond was made the capital of Virginia in 1779; the assembly first convened there in 1780. The following year, the city was pillaged and burned by British forces commanded by Benedict Arnold. Richmond was incorporated as a city in 1782.
On May 21, 1861, Richmond became the Confederate capital. Many battles took place near the city during the Civil War. Fires set by Confederates to destroy supplies while evacuating Richmond, April 2-3, 1865, raged out of control and burned much of the city. In the early 1900's the city began to industrialize, and its population grew rapidly. By the mid-20th century the Richmond area was a major manufacturing center. In the 1970's racial tensions were caused by white opposition to school desegregation and school busing and black opposition to the city's annexation of part of predominantly white Chesterfield County. In 1979, Henry L. Marsh, a black, was elected mayor.