Main Street Underground

The image above shows a section of Main Street undergoing excavation. The location is at the corner of Eighth and Main Street, and the structures under the street are abandoned coal shafts that joined chutes to Main Street. What this picture shows is the connection between history and the present that is ever present on Main Street. Sitting just beneath Main Street’s modern banks and businesses lie a piece of Richmond’s history. These coal shafts were likely once a key part of Richmond’s coal trade. For a brief time after independence from Britain, Richmond was one of two cities in America that took part in the domestic coal trade, and the Richmond coal basin was a key part to America’s growth and independence.[1] But just above the street are new and modern buildings that line Main Street and make it the business center that it is in Main Street. In the background is a building with Greek columns, likely a bank. Just beyond further down the street a tall building can be seen in the right side of the picture. This district starting at Eighth Street marks the beginning of Main Street’s true business area, and further down the street the buildings just mark more and more commercialism, as seen in the second picture with the snowstorm. Main Street started off as the center of business and economic life in Richmond, and it would remain a key place in the city going into the middle of the twentieth century.

[1] Sean Patrick Adams, February 4, 2010 (17:20), “The US Coal Industry in the Nineteenth Century,” Economic History Association Blog,

Peter CampoBasso

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1 Response to Main Street Underground

  1. urpl4ut says:

    It is neat to see the connections between Main Street as an economic center in both the 18th and 20th centuries–you can physically see the spaces that prove the street’s importance in past eras. I wonder if the coal shafts posed a threat to future development…was it safe to build on top of them?
    I find it interesting that while some parts of the city changed nearly every decade, places like Main Street stayed almost singular in their purpose. Main Street maintained its function in the city through centuries, while other streets and neighborhoods saw massive overhauls and look nothing like they did just a century ago. Some spaces have fluidity, but others, like Main Street, have been steadfast in purpose.

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