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Richmond, Virginia, a modern history lesson

© By Mary Martin
Virginia's Richmond Region is well-known for its history, from Pocahontas and Patrick Henry to the Confederacy and canals. During the Civil War, Richmond was transformed into the capital of the Confederacy. To learn about this intriguing history, here are some great visits:
 •   Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center: The National Park Services visitor center at Tredegar Iron Works is housed in the Pattern Building, which once held moulds and wooden forms for cast-iron products. Inside you'll find exhibits, maps and video tours of wartime Richmond and its surrounding battlefields. You'll also learn about the wars impact on the city. A 60-mile driving tour begins at Tredegar and connects 11 Civil War sites.
 •   Museum and White House of the Confederacy: The most comprehensive collection of military, political and domestic artifacts and art from the Confederacy. Take a guided tour of the White House, the Civil War residence of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The home has been restored to its wartime elegance and is designated a National Historic Landmark.
 •   Virginia Civil War Trails: More major Civil War battles were fought in Virginia than any other state. Travel along five campaign trails to more than 300 Virginia Civil War sites for a first-hand encounter with the people and places of America's past. All trails follow the campaigns sequentially from start to finish and for the most part, use the roads the soldiers used.
 •   Chimborazo Medical Museum: Located on the site of Chimborazo Hospital, the Civil Wars largest medical facility, this museum relates the stories of the more than 75,000 Confederate soldiers who received treatment here and the doctors who treated them.
 •   Belle Isle: This 18th-century industrial site served as a prisoner of war camp for more than 6,000 Union prisoners during the Civil War and is accessible by pedestrian bridge under the Lee Bridge. Today the area is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers.
 •   American Civil War Center: The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar is the first museum to interweave the Union, Confederate and African American stories of the Civil War in a national context. The Center's permanent exhibit In the Cause of Liberty is housed in the 1861 Gun Foundry where more than 1,100 Confederate cannons were manufactured.
 •   Hollywood Cemetery: Named for the holly trees that grow there, Hollywood Cemetery is the final resting place of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family, 25 Confederate generals and 18,000 Confederate soldiers.
     To remain in history mode, check out St. John's Church which was built in 1741, the oldest church in Richmond and the site of the Second Virginia Convention and Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death speech."
     Henricus Historical Park was the site of the second successful English settlement and the home of Pocahontas. Re-create early 17th-century life with living history interpretation, programs and events, or enjoy the recreational opportunities available in the Dutch Gap Conservation Area, where Henricus is located.
     At the Valentine Richmond History Center, you will find 400 years of Richmond history and a large collection of 19th-century artwork. Organized and self-guided tours of the Wickham House, a fully-restored 1812 home, are also available.
     The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia houses artifacts and records commemorating the lives and accomplishments of African Americans with a focus on Virginia. The museum is located in historic Jackson Ward, known as the "Harlem of the South" in the first part of the 20th century.
     At the Chesterfield Museum Complex, there are four attractions in one location - Magnolia Grange, an 1822 Federal-style plantation house; the Chesterfield County Museum, featuring exhibits on Native American culture
and more than 250 years of county history; the 1892 jail with its original cells and displays about police and veterans; and Castlewood, a Federal-period dwelling.
     At Meadow Farm Museum, step back in time with the 19th-century farmhouse, gardens and more than 150 acres of woodlands. Costumed interpreters perform domestic and agricultural tasks throughout the year.
     At Maymont, revisit the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries at the 100-acre Victorian estate of James and Sallie Dooley. Their 12,000 square foot home, which was completed in 1893, was the most elaborate of the elite homes in the area.
     Finally, explore the capitol building by taking a tour.
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Mary Martin is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is interested in and writes about world travel.

Photo Credits
Courtesy of Visit Richmond

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