Libby Hill Park – The View That Named Richmond, Virginia
One of the most interesting details about Richmond was the origin of her name. In the 1730's, after years of discord between William Byrd, II, a wealthy merchant and planter, and the Virginia House of Burgesses regarding the House's desire that he sell fifty acres of his land to form a new town, Byrd eventually and reluctantly gave in. For several years during that time, business establishments formed and prospered along the James River. In order to help accommodate the bustling activity and financial growth of the area, Byrd added a ferry to his own enterprise of stores and warehouse. He thereby helped to shape a town as the House initially had in mind. Byrd, also a well-known politician, had been educated in England; he knew the British landscape quite well. While standing at the top of, what is now known as, Libby Hill, he took note of the bend of the James River below the hill and the striking comparison it held to the bend and surrounding area of the River Thames in Richmond upon Thames, just west of London, England. In 1737, he officially named the new town, “Richmond”, and became known as the city’s founder.
To celebrate this connection, Richmond, Virginia and Richmond upon Thames were named sister cities in 1991. In 2006, a commemorative plaque, featuring a captivating photograph of the River Thames’s likeness to that of the James, was dedicated by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond, Virginia and Councillor Robin Jowit of Richmond upon Thames. It now sits in the garden of Libby Hill Park.
Libby Hill Park is one of the city’s oldest parks. Located at 28th and Franklin Streets, overlooking East Main Street, visitors can stand at the top of the same hill to take in Byrd’s observation. From Main Street and various areas of Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill, the park’s highly visible landmark, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument can be spotted as it stands atop the hill. Sculpted by Caspar Buberl and erected in 1894, this particular monument among our city’s collection was illustrated by William Ludlow Sheppard, using the famous pillar in Alexandria, Egypt, known as Pompey, as the inspiration for the 60-foot column which supports the bronze sculpture of a Confederate soldier.
The summit of Libby Hill Park provides a glorious panoramic view of Richmond from the east to the west, as well as points south towards Petersburg. The Carillon in Byrd Park can also be spotted beyond Interstate 95. There are picnic benches and other cozy seating areas, which include the benches at the base of the walkway of crepe myrtle trees under the romantic three-tier fountain. Underlined by the park’s cobblestone walkway, Richmond’s skyline is displayed in a striking fashion. Even closer to the park are the city’s former tobacco warehouses and factories, which may provide great conversation as they represent intense reminders of the city’s history as well as an enticing backdrop.
Byrd’s ability to capture such nearly identical scenes of the two rivers - an ocean apart - over 400 years ago, without the modern technology we sport now, demonstrates a remarkable component to this city’s history. Libby Hill Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Article reposted by permission: Tonya Rice, examiner.com