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Chapter 6 - Church Hill & St. John's Church

The Church Hill neighborhood was the namesake of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

 

Built around the colonial church in the nineteenth century, the area was Richmond’s premier historic district.

 

From Church Hill, the view of the curve in the James River reminded William Byrd II of the River Thames from Richmond Hill in England, even though the water flowed in the opposite direction. In 1737, Byrd was under political pressure to give up his warehouse monopoly at the James River fall line, so he commissioned William Mayo to lay out a town grid to sell lots and called it Richmond.

 

Turning the corner at Twenty-fourth and East Grace Streets, bordering St. John’s Church, Carter and Wendell Flood walked at a fast clip over the uneven brick sidewalk, illuminated by the yellow glow of gas lampposts.

 

Breathing heavy from their out-of-shape bodies, they stopped halfway up the block and waited at a chained iron gate set into a high brick wall, securing the churchyard. The men slipped up a narrow set of concrete stairs to the churchyard and

 

sidled around the white wooden-framed colonial church. They stayed out of the glare of the spotlights lighting the church and its steeple topped with a wooden cross.

 

Each avoided stepping on the grave sites, some with unreadable headstones worn by time, in the oldest cemetery in the city.

 

Under a hackberry tree, they gathered around the grave of George Wythe, Virginia’s first signer of the Declaration of Independence.

 

“I like meeting here,” Garnett said, focusing on the church. “Washington was here, Jefferson was here, and Patrick Henry, too, in 1775.

 

The Lucky Strike smokestack rose in the distance.

St. John's Church

St. John’s Church Historic District