Fertile Land: The Story of Short Pump

Fertile Lands: The Story of Short Pump
Yazmeen Nunez

Three Chopt Road is a street devoted to the consumer. Between two great hubs of contemporary commercial traffic in the city of Richmond and neighboring counties, Three Chopt will lead whoever so chooses to follow it from the bustling, diverse funland of Carytown, up and down its winding hillside paths, past oil stations and shopping centers and small homes to its westernmost point. If traffic permits, twenty minutes is all it will take to have travelled through its entirety, to reach a feat of urban and economic ingenuity: the city of Short Pump. Today, Short Pump is deemed one of the “fastest growing area in the Richmond metropolitan area”, a veritable nursery of chain companies and multiplexes receiving nourishment in the form of thousands of visitors to the area every day. Though the stores that gather the masses to this village every day are generally no more than twenty years old, the economic success of this region has always been stable and well-established. This mega-mall town was once a small community, banded together by a similarly commercial endeavor: to make a profit.

That Three Chopt Road that the consumer so dutifully followed from the east to Regal Cinemas and the Walmart Supercenter would have, only two hundred years prior, winded carelessly through deep forest and forgotten Powhatan settlements. Huddled aside this would have laid a small tavern, dilapidated but in a promising location (1). The founder of this small venue, a former American Revolutionary War soldier named Robert Hyde Saunders, invested in a large share of land over a previously-cleared multi-acre stretch of this road, known in the early 19th century as Three Notch Road. Three Notch was a commonly journeyed trail, formerly settled by the Native American of the regions and adopted by the English as an easy mode of travel from Charlottesville to Richmond and vice versa. Saunders recognized the need for a rest area for weary wanderers, and so developed his home here along with many other smaller buildings, including a kitchen near the tavern. Outside the tavern resided a large trough: here, horses could be revived as their riders ate, slept, and hid from unnavigable conditions. It did not take long for the geographically-advantaged tavern to gain prominence in the Commonwealth, and frequenters of the establishment included Thomas Jefferson and Stonewall Jackson. The Short Pump tavern, which experienced several renovations in its time to convenience its customers, enjoyed economic success until its destruction, estimated to have taken place around the 1930s, presumably a casuality to the national repercussions of the Great Depression (2).

Rambling Three Notch Road was paved with gravel and renamed Three Chopt by Henrico County as second wave of industry turned up in the place of the old tavern in the 1940s. The village was isolated and sparsely-populated; the only buildings, save for a few homes, were a general store, a grocery, and an auto repair shop. Both saw a fair influx of travelers, as they were the only facilities of their kind between Charlottesville and Richmond. However, as time moved on, the three businesses were fairly prosperous, and in the 1970s, when urban growth crawled through the suburbs and into the outer arms of Richmond, Short Pump – the village first invested in for its sound location some two-hundred years ago – was rediscovered as prime land for development for businesses that wanted to profit from large populations but could not find space in a city like Richmond. In 1992, the first WalMart was established in the region, attracting customers from miles away to a town whose resources were previously only utilized by those who lived nearby. To alleviate the traffic into the new shop, whose successes in the area would birth the settling of a host of other retail stores, restaurants and entertainment centers, the Virginia Department of Transportation expanded the interstate in this area by four lanes, condemning the land upon which sat the three original storefronts of “Downtown Short Pump”. Today, these stores are very eagerly visited by shoppers from the entirety of the state of Virginia. It is plain to see through the detailing of the history of Short Pump its accomplishments were wholly contingent upon the geographic placement of this large shopping center; as a grand hub of resources between Charlottesville and Richmond, conveniently placed on a major path of travel, it is certain to be visited. Whether the goods being provided were well-deserved rest and companionship or competitively-priced foods, it is easy to say that so long as that winding Three Chopt Road creeps by Short Pump, anything sitting on that ground will be sure to be profitable (2) (3).

1) Downtown Short Pump, “Downtown Short Pump: Pinpointing the Short Pump Tavern.” 2004. http://www.downtownshortpump.com/community/history/short-pump-tavern/ (accessed Jan 28 2010).

2) Downtown Short Pump, “Downtown Short Pump: The History of Short Pump.” 2004. http://www.downtownshortpump.com/community/history/short-pumps-name-origin/ (accessed Jan 28 2010).

3) “Short Pump Richmond: Short Pump Development is Out of Control.” Nov 22, 2008. http://www.shortpumprichmond.com/short-pump-development-is-out-of-control/ (accessed Jan 28 2010).

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