Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two important places in my heart

The town I grew up in.

Richmond on the James

I remember as a girl riding downtown in our family station wagon and anticipating the moment when the car's tires would hit cobblestone. It was like entering in to history. Once on Monument Avenue, I always scanned for the statue of Jeb Stuart; because in my girlish, non-historical mind, he embodied the spirit of cavalier romance - dashing and brave with long strawberry blond curls. I thought there was a way to discover whether each rider had died in battle or not by observing the direction the statue faced or the activity of the horse, but I couldn't find anything on the internet to substantiate this memory, so.... Isn't it funny the things you pick up in childhood and don't know how or where from.

I suppose I am the truest kind of Richmond native (even though I moved away over 15 years ago). I was the only one in my family actually born in the heart of the city at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) hospital (in the ancient days before it aligned with the VCU campus). I love the old buildings and renovated downtown areas aesthetically and for their remembrance of bygone eras. But, though I currently live in a city of around 3.2 million, I'm not really a city girl. Parallel parking, fast pace life and business dress, and knowing the latest restaurants and night spots; in general, isn't me.

One of the coolest parks in Richmond is Maymont. We took yearly field trips there in elementary school. And it always seemed so strange to me to find all kinds of birds and other indigenous wildlife within the borders of this regular, quiet, botanical city park. We had picnic lunches and petting zoos, but I don't think we ever entered the mansion.

My favorite place growing up was the University of Richmond campus. Both of my parents attended there when it was Richmond and Westhampton Colleges (the boys and girls separated by the lake). My first experience with ice skating was on that frozen lake one winter. And my first true kiss almost happened there, but he chickened out I guess. I imagined and played there while my Dad jogged the lake's winding, wooded paths. Beside the lake at the Robins Center, from my childhood through my teens, I sat up close in alumni seating and cheered the Spiders in their basketball contests (that is if I wasn't wandering the arena corridors hoping to run in to boys). I took my future husband to the lake when I was showing him my world; and we brought our boys there as preschoolers to run, explore, and throw bread crumbs to the ducks. So much of who I am and my memories, are tied up with this beautiful campus.

Westhampton Lake

One final Richmond image that I want to leave you with is the old Main Street (train) Station clock tower. We used to pass it multiple times during holidays and summer vacation, crossing the James River via I-95 on the way to visit my cousins. Every time I saw it, I grieved its forsaken and neglected state. I called it "Big Ben" and cherished it as such a forlorn, romantic spot. For years and years it remained ignored and unkept while businesses and buildings grew up around it, much like "The Little House" in Virginia Lee Burton's storybook. But then finally in 2004 the city completed renovation of this gorgeous Renaissance Revival style building and it has moved forward to become a vibrant part of railroad and downtown life.

The Main Street Station aka Big Ben

The town I adopted by marriage.

I love this city tucked away in the mountains of Virginia with its community feel and sense of, particularly, railroad heritage. But I think because of my earlier verboseness and the beauty of this dear place, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

View of Downtown Roanoke from Mill Mountain

The Hotel Roanoke

Icons of downtown

I couldn't not show you the Dr. Pepper sign.... Remember have one 3 times a day 10 2 and 4.

The Farmer's Market

Southwest Virginia Morning

McAfee's Knob Appalachian Trail

The Blue Ridge Parkway - My husband's grandfather was one of the hardworking engineers who designed this amazing and picturesque roadway.

Rocky Knob Sunrise

Many of the images I posted came from Jimmy Joe's (Jim Clark) Flickr photostream. He has taken some wonderful city photos in the states and Europe . You should check it out. I am grateful to him for:
The pink Dogwoods (state flower of Virginia)
Maymont Park Mansion
Maymont Park Bison
The Mill Mountain (Roanoke) Star

Other beautiful images came from these great photographers:

The Richmond Skyline by JeepDawg
The image of the Jeb Stuart monument by Hal Jespersen
Westhampton Lake image by suzymcg
Mainstreet Station (Infrastructure) image by taberandrew (Taber Andrew Bain)
(photostream has more cool Virginia pictures)
View of Downtown Roanoke at night from Mill Mountain by Ben Schumin
The Hotel Roanoke image by Dstewart2
H&C Coffee Sign image by theamericanroadside (Ron)
Dr. Pepper and H&C Coffee image by Cavalier92 (Chris Pesotski)
The Farmer's Market and the Southwest Virginia Morning images by Weaselmcfee (J.E. Fee)
(photostream has more gorgeous SW VA pictures)
McAfee's Knob image by Seuss
Blue Ridge Parkway image by str_collection
Rocky Knob Sunrise image by Michael Vadala

I am linking up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Links to rare and precious "R" posts can be found here.


  1. i loved every moment of your nostalgic tour of
    beautiful virginia. growing up in . . . not as lovely
    a state, i used to dream of places like virginia.


  2. Lovely prose to go with the lovely pictures. Thank-you for sharing your reminiscence (an 'R' word!) with us :-)


  3. Those where some fantastic photos Steph....I felt as though I was on a tour. Love the story of you on the lake and almost having your first sweet to remember he regrets that move still:) I have friends who lived in Richmond and they loved it....we need to take a road trip there sometime, we are not that far. Thanks Steph for your kind girls sure know how to make a girl feel good...!

  4. I have stayed at the Hotel Roanoke. What a beautiful place! I haven't explored Richmond. I enjoyed your tour of it.

  5. I love all your pictures. I tried googling the statue thing and I came up with that it is something guidebooks made up. Who know?! Great post.

  6. As a girl who grew up in MD, I can so appreciate this. You did an ASTOUNDING job of sharing your world with us. I'm now in CO, but we'll be in VA this summer. You've given me new places to visit. Thanks.

  7. Wonderful look at two beautiful places...and I enjoyed reading your stories and memories of these places. Hm...lots of interesting bits and pieces..but I have to say one thing that I never heard of before is the Dr Pepper call to drink a Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and 4!

    Blessings & Aloha!

  8. i was born in virginia beach...but my favorite part of the state remains albemarle county. thank you for this beautiful walk through a gorgeous state.

  9. Wonderful tour of these two cities ... I have been to Roanoke ... it is beautiful. some of the images shown are just gorgeous!

  10. Remarkable review of Roanoke and Richmond! Thank you for taking us on this amazing photo journey. Makes me want to plan a trip! ~ Sarah

  11. Wow another place I want to visit the photos are fab thank you

  12. I've been both places, but I've never seen McAfee's Knob....and that shot took my breath away! Lovely R!!

  13. What a beautiful place, and a wonderful tour, Steph. So much information about this area to keep me learning. Wish you a great week.

  14. Hi Steph,
    I loved the photo's and descriptions of the cities that you obviously love and mean a lot to you. Thank you for sharing!

  15. what a neat R post, I feel like I just went somewhere I had never been.

  16. I've never been to Virginia. I've always wanted to go though. Maybe I will some day. This seems like such a great place to grow up and you have so many good memories. Great R post.

  17. Hi!
    Great pictures and story. Thanks for taking me on your trip. Have a great day!

    A View of My Life

  18. It's been many years since I was in that part of the world, but I remember thinking it had to be one of the most beautiful areas - lucky you to have lived in two great cities.

  19. Nice...I have been to Richmond...once..
    love your photos...

    mine is here
    wanna try my meme, Weekend Funnies ?
    Happy Thursday!

  20. Oh Steph this is a wonderful post, your descriptions and pix are excellent. Makes me want to be there!

  21. very cool pics and history :D

  22. I love all of those beautiful pictures and hearing about your connections to them, and their history.

  23. I have never been to Virginia so I loved this virtual tour-thank you!

    Best wishes,

  24. I love both Richmond and Roanoke. I heart Virginia as a whole. I just wish I weren't so allergic to what grows there! Beautiful post about two beautiful places.

  25. OH, I loved your R post and envy you living in both places...

  26. Thank you for sharing some of your memories and pictures of R and R in Virginia with us. I think that Virginia and North Carolina are the two prettiest states over on the east coast.

  27. Wonderful choice for your R post! Thanks for the beautiful tour, they both looks like wonderful places to call home. Love the H & C Coffee sign! Kathy

  28. Enjoyed your tour of Richmond & Roanoke! My grandmother lived in Richmond and I can remember riding up and down Monument Avenue fascinated with the statues, I thought the horses legs were indicators too of battle death/injury too. Love the H&C Coffee sign :-)

  29. it's always nice to have such sweet memories of where you were born

    thanks for your visit

  30. they are both really beatiful places....I love the mansion in!

  31. What lovely memories and the photos are fantastic!

  32. Such beautiful cities! Much of my family history centers around those areas, and yet I have never visited either city!

  33. I lived in Virginia, but never visited Richmond. Wish I had gone while I had the chance. We left in 1980 and I always hoped we could go back someday to live, but it doesn't look like it will ever happen. We were in Virginia Beach and our youngest son was born in Norfolk. A piece of my heart will always be in Virginia.

  34. What a lovely post. I am so homesick now for "back East".

    My husband has never been on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I want to take him some day. I always wonder about moving to Virginia...I am so charmed by its cities and views and quaint small towns.

    Thank you for this incredible trip for this weeks Alphabe-Thursday's Letter "R"!

    Your writing and your pictures were outstanding!


  35. Dear Steph,
    Thank you for your kind words when visiting my R-post. I am so late with my comments on others' posts. But what a pleasure to arrive on your blog and discover a kindred soul! I spent five of the best years of my life in Richmond Virginia! Went to VCU for a degree in graphic design. I still have friends there.
    Your R-post is perfect!
    I have actually never been to Roanoke, but I am sure that you have captured the essence there.
    Wonderful to visit with you!
    Best wishes,'
    You have already been there, but here is a link if you need to refresh your memory:

    Anna's Rs


Thank you for your comments. They help me feel that I am some how connected out here in Blogland and not just writing to the air.


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