From the Richmond Whig, 4/20/1865
THE ANTIQUITIES OF RICHMOND. - As we promised, we continue
from yesterday our notices of the prominent points and places of note,
interesting to the stranger, in Richmond. The great fire has obliterated many of
these, but enough remains to form an entertaining chapter. Among the most
respectable antiquities in point of age and appearance, of which Richmond can
boast, is the old stone house, of one story, on Main street, near the corner of
20th, which dates, probably, A. M. C. - and, what is more remarkable,
has always been in the Ege family. It was one of the first houses ever erected
on the site now occupied by Richmond, and tradition says it was once an old
Indian fort, and the lodge of a chief. Modernised, it became the resort of
Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others. It has a history which would be
interesting if gathered.
On the very summit of the high and steep hill north of the
Ege house stands the old Adams mansion, a contemporary probably; erected by its
original proprietor, whose domain was seperated by Shockoe creek from that of
Col. Byrd, the founder of Richmond. The mansion retains its primitive and
picturesque appearance, and is kept in fine preservation by its present owner,
Mr. Loftin N. Ellett.
The old Parish Church of St. John’s, Church Hill, which
is entitled to precedence for its sacred character, and probably for its age
also, is preserved in its ancient purity of simple architecture, with the
addition duly of a tower and belfry. This church was the Virginia House of
Burgesses pending the American Revolution, and it was within its walls that
Patrick Henry gave utterance to that remarkable speech in which occurs the now
household sentence of “Give me liberty or give me death!” When McClellan was
encompassing Richmond in 1862, and while one of the series of battles was
progressing, a dreadful thunder storm arose, and the lighting struck the
steeple, throwing down a portion of it. The event was looked upon as very
ominous at the time.
Just back of the Richmond House, Governor street, was
Council Chamber Hill. The old Continental Capitol occupied a site at the base of
this hill, and the homeliness of the building was adapted to its locality; but
it may be questioned whether in that mere wooden barn, more high talent, more
political wisdom, and more true patriotism was not assembled, than has gathered
since in the marred copy of a beautiful Grecian temple, which in its cost of
shabby stucco, crowns the beautiful summit of Capitol Hill.
The Old Capitol as it was called until it was demolished,
stood on 14th street (or modern Pearl street), below Exchange alley.
The edifice was a plain one story building, originally of small dimensions. From
halls of legislation it was converted into counting-rooms - bills of exchange
were drawn in place of legislative bills - bargain an sale superceded motions
and enactments. Bargain and sale ever contaminated these halls when occupied by
the Fathers of the Republic. Alas! that it should be charged to their successors
with so much truth.
Where the Monumental Church now stands on Broad street
between 13th and 14th streets, a large brick edifice, used
as a theatre, once stood. This theatre was the scene of a terrible disaster on
the night of December 26th, 1811. The theatre took fire during the
performance, and seventy-two persons perished in the flames. The portico of the
church, which was reared upon the spot, now covers the tomb and ashes of most of
the victims, whose names are recorded upon the tablets of the Monument, from
which the church takes its name.
On Marshall street can be seen, in an excellent state of
preservation, and in the occupancy of a gentleman of wealth, the residence in
which Chief Justice John Marshall lived while in Richmond. - The agency of the
United States Sanitary Commission is located in this building.
A short distance from it, on Ninth street, stands the
mansion of Patrick Henry, now in the occupancy of his blood relative, Patrick
Henry Aylett, Prosecuting Attorney of thee Confederate States District Court up
to the time of the occupation of Richmond.
On Ninth street, opposite Capitol street, is the law office
in which Patrick Henry gathered, from books, the eloquence that made him great.
The building has suffered from fire once or twice, and repairs has somewhat
changed its original appearance. At the time of the evacuation it was in the
occupancy of Hon. Jas. Lyons.