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     The Homefront
The Homefront  


ListenListen to the introduction (2:36 minutes):

Distance: 1.2 miles one way.

The Homefront tour begins at the Bank Street entrance to the Virginia State Capitol. It will take us west toward one of Richmond’s finest wartime residential neighborhoods.

Richmond was the 25th largest city in the United States on the eve of the war and the third largest among cities in states that eventually seceded. The city’s prewar population approached 38,000 people: 23,595 white, 11,739 slaves, and 2,576 free blacks. An estimated one in five was foreign born.

The city’s African-American population — slave and free — was employed at a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs on the waterfront and in the tobacco and iron industries. Slaves also lived in the outbuildings, basements and attics of the homes we will see on this tour — working as cooks, maids, stable keepers, and nannies.

Changes came quickly in the spring of 1861 as Virginia seceded, war broke out and the Confederate government came to town. Soon after, government workers, military officers, foreign dignitaries, office seekers, and the attendant gamblers, prostitutes, and ne’er-do-wells swelled the city’s population. As the war continued, refugees from Union-occupied sections of a shrinking Confederacy poured into the city as did armies of sick and wounded soldiers.

Estimates vary but the population of the city probably tripled during the war, putting immense strain on Richmond’s infrastructure and stretching the dwindling supply of food and fuel to the breaking point.

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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Ninth and Grace streets
Date: 1845 (consecrated)

ListenListen to the narration (3:20 minutes):

This classic Greek-revival building was designed by the same man, Thomas Stuart, who designed the Egyptian Building, now part of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine campus a few blocks away.

St. Paul’s is often referred to as the “Cathedral of the Confederacy,” because so many notable military and political characters — including President Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee — worshiped here.

One of the leading clerics of the time, Dr. Charles Minnigerode, led the congregation. He was a staunch Confederate and friend to many of his highly ranked parishioners.

During Sunday services here on April 2, 1865, President Davis got word from Lee that Petersburg and Richmond could not be held. The shaken president got up from his pew (No. 63) to plan the government’s evacuation from the city.

The Lee family pew also is marked (No. 111). Windows and plaques in the church are dedicated to church members who were, and are, familiar names in Richmond’s Civil War history including the Pegram brothers who died in Confederate service; Joseph Reid Anderson, proprietor of the Tredegar Iron Works; and Matthew Fontaine Maury, “Pathfinder of the Seas,” inventor and naval pioneer.

The church remains very active. Self-guided tours of the church are available during business hours (although not, obviously, during services). Brochures are available inside.

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St Paul


St. Peter’s Catholic Church
800 E Grace St
Date: 1835



Lee Family Home
707 E Franklin St
Date: 1844

ListenListen to the narration (2:50 minutes):

LeeThis building is the sole survivor of a series of Greek-revival homes that lined this area of Franklin Street during the war.

Mrs. Robert E. Lee, disabled by arthritis, and her daughters lived here during the later stages of the war. The general spent little time here, his duties in the field keeping him away from his family.

The Lee women remained in their home as the April 1865 Evacuation Fire nipped at the back porches. All the buildings on Main Street behind the house were destroyed. Gen. Lee came “home” after surrendering at Appomattox, spending two months in this house before moving to a rural area southwest of Richmond.

The photograph shown here is one in a series made a few days after Lee returned to the city. The famous pictures of Lee wearing his Appomattox uniform were made on the back porch of this house.

Lee Hs

Slideshow Photo album of the Lee House


Second Presbyterian Church
13 N Fifth St
Date: 1847

The early history of this church is dominated by its first minister, Moses Hoge, who served the congregation 1845–1899. Hoge, dedicated to the Southern cause, also served as minister for the Confederate Congress. He famously traveled to England to purchase Bibles for Confederate soldiers, running the Union blockade on the way back.

Gen. Stonewall Jackson worshiped here (sometimes sleeping through the service) during his rare visits to town. His pew is located under the south gallery, fourth row from the back, and is marked with a plaque.

This was a dangerous place April 2–3, 1865, when explosions destroyed the Virginia Arsenal a few blocks south, near the river. The explosion blew out the distinctive diamond-shaped stained glass windows in the front of the church.

Much of the original window glass was salvaged and stored in the attic. That glass was used to restore the windows in 1973.

5 Wartime residence
2 N Fifth St
Date: 1809


Robertson’s Hospital (site)
Third and Main streets (northwest corner)

This was the site of the Robertson Hospital during the war, noteworthy because it was run by a woman, Sally Tompkins. Her enterprise was one of the most successful in the city, treating more than 1,300 sick and wounded soldiers while losing only 73 during the war, the lowest mortality rate of any wartime hospital. Since all Confederate hospitals required military supervision, Tompkins was made a captain of cavalry. She was the only woman to hold such a commission in the Confederate armed forces. A plaque noting the site is on the east wall of the building.


Franklin Street Historic District

This area was designated a historic area by the city in the late 1970s. It was the far west end of the city during the war, with the Fairground (now Monroe Park) located just outside the city limits. Many antebellum residences survive, although the appearance of many has been altered over the years.



Bolling Haxall House
211 E Franklin St
Date: 1858

ListenListen to the narration: (1:54 minutes)

Many people are surprised that flour milling — not tobacco nor manufacturing — was the largest industry in Richmond prior to the war. One of the largest mills in town, and in the world at the time, was owned and operated by the man who lived here, Bolling Haxall.

The Richmond mills turned out flour that was able to “keep sweet” during long voyages and in hot climates. It commanded a premium price. Before the war the Haxall Mill produced 160,000 barrels of flour annually.

An ardent Confederate supporter, Haxall may have hedged his bet by constructing what some believe was an escape tunnel in the lower level of the home. Believing he would be arrested, Haxall fled the city April 2, 1865. His fortunes declined rapidly after the war. Haxall sold this house in 1869.

The house is now occupied by The Woman’s Club of Richmond, and the interior has been restored. Call 804-643-2847 about visiting the inside of the house.



Linden Row
North side of Franklin Street,
between First and Second streets
Date: 1847-1853

ListenListen to the narration (1:51 minutes):

Before there were buildings here, John Allan, foster father of Edgar Allan Poe, maintained a garden on the site. Poe no doubt played in the garden as a child and perhaps later referred to it as the “enchanted garden” in his poem “To Helen.”

Eight of the 10 Greek Revival row houses built in the 1840s and 1850s survive. They were home during the war to many of Richmond’s most prominent citizens.

Most of Linden Row is now a hotel.

9 Wartime residence, 15 E Franklin St, Date: 1837  
10 Wartime residence, 13 E Franklin St, Date: 1847  
11 Wartime residence, 11 E Franklin St, Date: 1840  
12 Kent-Valentine House, 12 E Franklin St, Date: 1845  
13 Wartime residence, 110 W Franklin St, Date: 1845  


Wartime Residence, Cole Diggs House
204 W Franklin St
Date: 1800

ListenListen to the narration: (1:12 minutes)

Now the headquarters of Preservation Virginia.

Cole Diggs
15 Wartime Residence, 212 W. Franklin St, Date: 1805  
16 Wartime Residence, 211 W. Franklin St, Date: 1852