Explore the Past - More Main Street Station History

Henry “Box” Brown:

Resurrection of Henry Box Brown
The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia, published 1850 (Library of Congress)


Along the Canal Walk near 15th and Dock streets is the Henry “Box” Brown monument, a tribute to a Richmond enslaved man who invented a unique way to reach freedom in the North.  In 1849, after his wife and children were sold away from him to North Carolina, Brown, with the help of some friends, enclosed himself in a small box marked “This side up with care” and shipped himself to a Philadelphia abolitionist society.  Brown endured a 27-hour journey inside the box before reaching his destination.  He then became a well-known speaker throughout the North on the cause of abolition.  Brown’s monument is a bronze replica of the 3’ x 2’8” x 2’ box in which he was shipped, with one side removed to allow visitors to experience the confined space.  (Box Brown Plaza, 1498 Dock St., 0.2 miles.)


Triple Crossing / Richmond Canal Cruises:

Triple Crossing
Triple Crossing, mid-20th century (The Valentine)

 

Richmond Canal Cruises
Richmond Canal Cruises, 2019 (Photo by Tre Rockenbach)

 

Created in 1901, the famous Triple Crossing is believed to be the only place in North America where three Class 1 rail lines cross over each other in the same spot.  The site can be viewed from Box Brown Plaza near 15th and Dock streets, and you can also see a photograph of a staged Triple Crossing (in which the tracks were shut down and trains moved into position) on the second floor of Main Street Station.  The Richmond Canal Cruises, which operate from the turning basin along the Canal Walk at 14th and Dock streets, provide an up-close look at the Triple Crossing.  Cruises are offered from April through November and feature a 40-minute narrated look at the early history of Richmond and the James River and Kanawha Canal.  (Box Brown Plaza, 1498 Dock St., 0.2 milesRichmond Canal Cruises Ticket Booth at Turning Basin, down ramp/steps at 14th and Dock streets, 0.3 miles.)


The Valentine First Freedom Center:

The Old Capitol
The Old Capitol at 14th and Cary, 1785 (The Valentine)

 

First Freedom Center
The Valentine First Freedom Center, 2018 (courtesy of The Valentine)

 

At the corner of 14th and Cary streets is the Valentine First Freedom Center, located on the site where the General Assembly initially met after then-Gov. Thomas Jefferson moved the Virginia capital from Williamsburg to Richmond in 1780. Under British rule, the Church of England had been the state-sanctioned religion, but Jefferson and James Madison championed the idea that people should be free to worship in whatever manner they chose. Jefferson’s Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted into law by the Virginia General Assembly at this site on January 16, 1786. The statute was the first law that guaranteed absolute religious freedom in the new nation, and its language became the basis for part of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The Valentine First Freedom Center opened in 2015 and contains exhibits that examine the issue of religious freedom in America from the 1600s through today. The First Freedom Monument located outside includes an etching of a portion of the Statute for Religious Freedom and a 27-foot spire sculpture. The Valentine First Freedom Center is free and open Tuesdays through Sundays.  (14 S. 14th St., 0.3 miles.)


Lumpkin’s Slave Jail / Reconciliation Statue:

Lumpkin's Jail
Lumpkin’s Jail drawing from A History of the Richmond Theological Seminary, Charles Henry Corey, 1870 (The Valentine)

 

Reconciliation Statue
Reconciliation Statue Unveiling, 2007 (The Valentine, Maurice Duke Collection)

 

Before the Civil War, the area surrounding this GRTC Pulse station housed more than 90 slave markets from which, between 1830 and 1860, an estimated 350,000 enslaved people were sold, mostly to owners of sugar and cotton plantations in the Deep South.  The self-guided Richmond Slave Trail includes a stop at Lumpkin’s Slave Jail (1846-1865), whose location can be seen if you walk north on 15th Street, turn right on Franklin Street, turn left at the train shed and walk to the end of the parking lot.  After the Civil War, a Baptist minister turned Lumpkin’s Jail (also known as "The Devil's Half Acre") into a school for the formerly enslaved, which ultimately became Virginia Union University.  The site also includes Winfree Cottage, given to Emily Winfree in 1866 by her former owner.  The tunnel under Broad Street leads to the African Burial Ground, which was used from around 1750 to 1816 as a cemetery for Richmond’s free and enslaved black population and for public executions, including the hanging of Gabriel, who led an attempted slave uprising in 1800.  On your way to Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, you’ll pass the 2007 Richmond Reconciliation Statue at the corner of 15th and Main streets.  Identical statues were also installed in Liverpool, England, and the Republic of Benin in West Africa in memory of the slave trade.  (Lumpkin’s Slave Jail, 0.3 milesReconciliation Statue, 0.1 mile.)

17th Street Market:

17th St Market over time
Left - First Market, 1954 (The Valentine, Edith Shelton Collection); Center - 17th Street Farmers’ Market, 2004 (The Valentine, Maurice Duke Collection); Right - 17th Street Market, 2019 (Photo by Tre Rockenbach)

 

About 100 feet east of the Main Street Eastbound GRTC Pulse Station is the 17th Street Market, an open-air plaza that extends between Main and Franklin streets. Before the arrival of John Smith’s expedition to the New World, this area was home to Native American tribes belonging to the Powhatan Confederacy, under the high chief Powhatan. Powhatan’s son, Parahunt, ruled over a small village on a nearby bluff overlooking the James River. The Powhatans used this area for trade, and the presence of Shockoe Creek (now covered by 15th Street) allowed the English colonists to continue the tradition by bringing goods up from the James River via small boats. As a result, the 17th Street Market is one of the oldest public markets in America. The plaza includes a bell and two terracotta bulls’ heads long associated with Richmond markets. Today, the 17th Street Market is still used for commerce, as well as for community events and festivals. (Corner of 17th and Main streets, <0.1 mile from Main Street Eastbound GRTC Pulse Station, 0.1 mile from Main Street Westbound GRTC Pulse Station.)

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