Explore the Past - More Government Center History

Library of Virginia:

Library of Virginia original site
Eighth and Broad streets, 1910 (The Valentine, Cook Collection)


Library of Virginia present day
Library of Virginia, 2018 (© Ansel Olson)


The building directly across Broad Street from the Government Center Eastbound GRTC Pulse Station is the fourth – and current – location of the Library of Virginia.  Established in 1823, the Library of Virginia initially occupied rooms on the third floor of the Capitol before moving its growing collection into two subsequent buildings adjacent to Capitol Square.  The current building was completed in 1997 on a block that was once part of Richmond’s early-20th-century theater district.  Over the course of its existence, the Library of Virginia has amassed a significant collection of items pertaining to the state’s history and culture, including more than 1.5 million books, newspapers, official records, personal papers, ephemera, prints, photographs and maps.  Public reading rooms are open for research Mondays through Saturdays.  On the building’s first floor, visitors can enjoy rotating exhibits on Virginia history and stop by The Virginia Shop, which offers Virginia-themed books and gifts. (800 E. Broad St., <0.1 miles.)

Richmond’s City Halls:

City Hall
City Hall, c. 1865 (Library of Congress)


City Hall
City Hall, with Virginia State Capitol at left rear, c. 1895 (The Valentine, Cook Collection)


The majestic granite Gothic Revival building with a 195-foot clock tower that you can see at the corner of 10th and Broad streets is referred to as “Old City Hall,” because it served as Richmond’s administrative center from 1894 until 1971.  Old City Hall stands on the site of Richmond’s original 1816 City Hall, which was demolished in 1875 out of fear for its structural stability.  Since being restored in the early 1980s, Old City Hall has been used as office space.  Its magnificently detailed interior contains a three-story atrium with multi-colored cast-iron columns and stairs.  Richmond’s current City Hall is located directly behind the Government Center Westbound GRTC Pulse Station.  When it was completed in 1972, it was the tallest building in Virginia.  The observation deck on the 18th floor, which offers an incredible 360-degree view of the city, is free and open to visitors on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  (Old City Hall, 1001 E. Broad St., <0.1 mile.  For the Richmond City Hall Observation Deck, enter the building directly behind the Government Center Westbound GRTC Pulse Station and take a lobby elevator to the 18th floor.)


John Marshall House / Court End:

Marshall House
John Marshall House, early-20th century (The Valentine, Cook Collection)


This area was called Court End because it was developed after 1780, when Virginia’s legislative body moved from Williamsburg to Richmond to evade British troops and be more accessible to Virginian settlers who were moving westward.  After the American Revolution, the presence of the state capital and courts in Richmond resulted in the construction of hotels, taverns and residences to serve the area’s influx of political and legal figures.  John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the man who defined the Court as being responsible for performing judicial review to determine the constitutionality of laws, built his home in 1790 at the corner of Ninth and Marshall streets.  Guided tours of the John Marshall House are offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, March through December. (818 E. Marshall St., <0.1 mile.)


Court End Churches:

St. Paul's Church
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1918 (The Valentine, Cook Collection)


St. Peter's Church
St. Peter’s Catholic Church, early-20th century (The Valentine, Cook Collection)


Two historic churches are located a block away on Grace Street – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1845) and St. Peter Catholic Church (1834).  St. Paul’s has been called the “Cathedral of the Confederacy” because during the Civil War, both Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee worshipped there.  Today, St. Paul’s maintains an active and inclusive congregation.  The church is notable for the 10 stained-glass windows and an altar mosaic of “The Last Supper” that were all created by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  St. Paul’s is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and for worship on Sunday mornings.  St. Peter Catholic Church is the second-oldest church in Richmond, having been constructed to serve the city’s immigrant Irish and German communities.  St. Peter was the original cathedral of the Diocese of Richmond until, as the population of Richmond moved westward, the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was built in 1905 in Monroe Park.  Masses are offered on weekdays and Sundays.  (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 815 E. Grace St., 0.1 mile.  St. Peter Catholic Church, 800 E. Grace St., 0.1 mile.)



Explore the Past is sponsored by VCU logo and