7th Street in the Twentieth Century

Seventh Street was subjected to quite a bit of change through the middle part of the twentieth century. Lying so close to the River James, and actually extending onto it – connecting the mainland and the once so important Brown’s Island, Seventh Street was subjected to a high risk of flooding. Flooding as well as the widespread construction in the second half of the twentieth century is what I shall I be concentrating on for this account.

The construction that had occurred over the twentieth century is extremely staggering, but possibly could be described as expected if we consider that Richmond’s landscape had been quite stagnant since the end of the Civil War in 1865. If you were to walk through Seventh Street in 1985, it would be quite different to the street you would have seen in, say 1940 or 1950. This is due to the large-scale destruction of structures. These were replaced with buildings that still exist today, such as multi-storey parking lots, and office blocks for businesses as the economy developed. This was as well as refurbishing out of date buildings themselves.

http://collections.richmondhistorycenter.com/media/IMG_1967/I_V_67_32_18.jpg (the new parking garage at 7th and Marshall street)

The picture is simply an example of the major construction that went on during the second half of the twentieth century. It is part of what seems to be a city (or at least street!) wide program of regenerating the buildings; there are more photos of new buildings being constructed on Seventh Street too.

http://collections.richmondhistorycenter.com/getimg.php?wm=no&loc=D%3A%2Fimages%2FIMG_1970%5C&fn=I_P_70_40_73w.jpg

There was much flooding as a result of Hurricane Camille, which hit Richmond in August 1969. Although technically not a hurricane by the time it reached Virginia, the system dropped up to 27 inches of torrential rainfall in places as it passed through Virginia, claiming 152 lives in the State.[1]

http://collections.richmondhistorycenter.com/media/IMG_1985/I_V_85_37_598.jpg

The photo here shows the sheer impact that the high volume of water can have on the street, having fallen in a matter of hours. As there had been repeated flooding on Seventh Street and across Richmond as a whole before the Hurricane actually came, it was probably Hurricane Camille that was the ‘last straw’ in having to clean up repeatedly after water invaded. Furthermore, the authorities probably decide that it was worth simply going for broke and committing to a city-wide process of building new structures that allowed for advancement and progress in terms of technology and business in the Central Business District of Richmond.

This is certainly a change to the scenes that one would have witness in the early twentieth century around 1910 or 1920. As I have studied, Seventh Street was filled with small businesses such as tailors, restaurants and barbers. But as the focus of the street left the CS Lab and Brown’s Island, the attention switched to further up the street, nearer the intersections with East Main and Carey. Here the focus of the buildings and commerce was turned to larger, bigger buildings such as the Kwik Kopy office building on North Seventh Street, and, most importantly, the Federal Reserve Bank of Virginia. This fits in with the reported “downtown boom” that occurred between 1935 and 1965, which reportedly led to the construction of more than 700 buildings in the city of Richmond.[2]

Pedestrians http://collections.richmondhistorycenter.com/media/IMG_1985/I_V_85_37_1580.jpg


[1] Romano, Lisa. “Hurricane Camille (August 1969).” 9th September 2010.http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Hurricane_Camille_August_1969 (accessed 18th April 2011)

[2] Wikipedia, “Richmond, Virginia.” 18th April 2011.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond,_Virginia#20th_century_and_21st_century (accessed 18th April 2011)

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