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Chapter 12 - Varina, Main Street, The Fan & Virginia Historical Society

Pat turned onto Osborne Turnpike, heading out of Varina. This section of Henrico County, east of Richmond, was named after John Rolfe’s Varina Farms, established several miles away on the James River. Rolfe named his plantation after Varinas, Spain, where his tobacco seed stock had originated.

 

A 3,000-home development was slated to be built on Tree Hill Farm, where Richmond Mayor Joseph Mayo on the morning of April 3, 1865, rode out in a carriage to surrender the burning Confederate capital to Union General Godfrey Weitzel.

 

He quickly hit downtown and rode on Main Street through a canyon of office buildings. On the day Mayor Mayo took his surrender ride, this business quarter was in the hub of a firestorm started by Confederate troops before evacuating the city.

 

Pat drove out of downtown to the Fan, a neighborhood of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century town houses, noted for its harmonious architecture heavily influenced by the City Beautiful movement. The Fan was over a hundred city blocks in size and included Monument Avenue. The name referred to the manner its streets radiated to the west, giving the district the shape of a half-opened fan.

 

The turrets of Queen Anne town houses rose above the trees, lining the street.

 

Looming above the house towers, a block away on Franklin Street was the copper-tarnished, forty-foot steeple of St. James's Episcopal Church, the church where Jeb Stuart worshipped and his funeral service was held.

 

Ann nodded with trepidation, and off they clopped, past the tiny sidewalk gardens of flowers, shrubs, and ivy.

 

The road split, and they took a left at the small, triangular-shaped Meadow Park, a product of the fanning streets. At the apex of the park stood a refreshing statue of a colonial soldier.

 

The streets widened, revealing the architecture.

 

Riding past Fox Elementary School where Ann taught . . . .

 

They traveled two more blocks until forced to stop at a red light, receiving hoots and catcalls from the patio at Buddy’s Place, a neighborhood bar.

 

Ann looked to her left and pointed with one finger off the horn at the building across the street. “I’ve always wondered. Is that a mausoleum?”
“You might say that.” Pat grinned. “It’s the headquarters of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the UDC.

 

To the right of the UDC headquarters stood the Virginia Historical Society. . . . Pat and Ann rode Shiloh up the front steps of the historical society to a small lawn.

 

The grassy patch contained a statue of a bent-over, broken-down, emaciated horse without a rider, donated by Paul Mellon.

John Rolfe

Tobacco in Colonial Virginia

Main Street Banking Historic District

Fan Area Historic District

St. James's Episcopal Church

United Daughters of the Confederacy

Virginia Museum of History & Culture (formerly the Virginia Historical Society