Dueling Maps of the Towpath, Again?

Nothing better than a good history rumble, and RVAHub.com may have started one with a post on the history of Harvie’s Pond that tries to reintroduce some troubling assertions about the history of the James River and Kanawha Canal.

What’s particularly worrisome is how RVAHub.com is glossing over the earlier debate itself.

From a 2013 post on this site, entitled “Dueling Maps of the Towpath”:

Venture Richmond Director Jack Berry gave a presentation on the proposed amphitheater at the July meeting of the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association. One the main assertions Berry made was that the tow path on the south bank of the canal was only 12 feet wide until it was enlarged in the 1880s to make way for the railroad. He wants to remove over half of the tow path on the south bank of the canal, from 25 to 12 feet to improve the sight lines of the the proposed amphitheater.

Disproving Berry’s assertion is the 1848 plat of Lewis Harvie’s property on file at the Henrico Courthouse (Plat 3-417), which is far more detailed than the Morgan map cited by Berry. This plat is of such detail that it actually gives the dimension of the tow path as being 30 ft. wide at the location of what is now Venture Richmond’s proposed amphitheater. (See measurement on the attached Henrico Plat below the word “Path” to the left of the “House.”) The east-west street above the canal is the same width as the tow path and is also labeled “30 feet wide.”

This 1848 Henrico plat establishes that the towpath was at least as wide as it is today during the canal’s primary period of significance, and long before the railroad purchased the right-of-way on the canal bank. This canal was carefully engineered with an impermeable “puddled” clay layer that would be irreparably damaged if half of the south canal bank is removed.

Sadly, this has happened. In late June, early July of 2014, Venture Richmond ignored citizen concerns and compromised the integrity of the historic canal.

In doing so, Venture Richmond and City government ignored the findings of a large report on this historic area that was completed earlier that year. That report concluded with this paragraph:

In 1989 a joint Virginia House and Senate resolution honored the bicentennial anniversary of the opening of the James River Canal, recognizing that the “James River Canal, around the falls of the James River in Richmond, Virginia was the first operating canal system with locks in the United States,” and recognizing the canal, “… as a valuable, scenic, historic and economic resource to the Commonwealth and its capital city.” The James River and Kanawha Canal has survived and been treasured as a remarkable feature for a dozen generations. Will we be the generation that jeopardizes the canal, allowing the tow path embankment of this rare, historic structure to be cut because it blocks the view of a rock band?

It’s definitely worth noting that Jack Berry, as the Executive Director of Venture Richmond, dishonorably broke a repeated public promise to this community and government. From neighbor Todd Woodson:

“It is outrageous that Venture Richmond is breaking its repeated promises to submit the amphitheater plan to an impartial state and federal review through the Section 106 process. We have spent a year researching the canal, and we have documentation that the current tow path and and embankment are authentic and will be greatly damaged by the amphitheater plan.”

Flash forward to 2016 and the same Jack Berry is now running for Mayor, complete with a slick video and lots of support from the Ukrops and other members of the local corporate oligarchy. Does anyone doubt that Berry, if elected Mayor, will put his backers’ corporate interests over the concerns of citizens and neighbors? As the election draws nearer, there are other important points to consider and I will try to get to them, but this “history debate” says a lot about the character of Berry. Also, is Venture Richmond is disingenuously delaying its interactions as they wait to see if Berry is elected or not?

Sure, a lot of people may not care that much about a nerdy debate over old maps, water levels, and historic preservation (though it should be held in higher regard based on future planning, and more!), but the bigger picture is who owns the history as we get ready to elect our new leaders. Sadly, I cannot help but compare this RVAHub.com post, which puts forward Venture Richmond’s version, with previous attempts to push Venture Richmond’s propaganda (to the point of dishonestly suggesting that this neighborhood is against the Folk Festival). The stance of this community news site is that the history belongs to all of us, and while different interpretations are certainly welcome, they should not be used as tools of corporate hegemony to the detriment of the community and the truth.

Oregon Hill Walking Tour This Sunday

Valentine Museum-sponsored walking tour of the neighborhood takes place this Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.

From FaceBook event page:

Oregon Hill originated as a grouping of residences for workers from the Tredegar Iron Works and survives today as a tight-knit working class enclave that has continued to thrive with remarkable cohesion. Learn about its history and newer developments. Meet at Laurel and Idlewood streets.

$15 per person
$5 for Valentine Members
Walk-ups welcome.
Cash or check.
On street parking.

This tour is presented as part of the Richmond History Tours program, a service of the Valentine. We offer a full schedule of walking and bus tours of city neighborhoods, waterways, parks, retail districts, historic sites and battlefields. Led by a trained master guide, a Richmond History Tour is the best way to experience the city’s past, present and future.

Neighborhood Association Meeting Tomorrow Night

From email announcement:

Hello all

Just a reminder that the August OHNA meeting is tomorrow, Tuesday the 23rd, at 7 pm. We are meeting at the Parish House at St. Andrew’s.

On the agenda:

The newest group of Grace on the Hill interns will be present.

Joyce Livingstone, a biologist, and neighbor Stephenie Harrington will be discussing a native Virginian plant, the cardinal flower. Joyce started growing the plant in her own yard, and with the wet weather we had this year, she has a bumper crop of cardinal flowers. Joyce will be handing out free plants starting at around 6ish at St. Andrew’s. The cardinal plant has bright red flowers and likes shade and a damp environment.

Joyce has started a Facebook page to post information and pictures of the cardinal flower and notifications of events where she will be handing out free flowers. This public group is “Cardinal Flower Fever.”

Neighbor Nolen Blackwood of 349 S. Laurel St (Bunny Hop) will be present.


Recent Commentary From St. Andrew’s School’s Weldon-Lassiter

Head of St. Andrew’s School, Cyndy Weldon-Lassiter, recently had a column published in the Times Dispatch on the benefits of an Expanded Learning Time program.


Much attention has been paid to the phenomenon of summer learning loss, which occurs over the long vacation break and can result in students losing two to three months of academic skills and knowledge. Summer learning loss can impact all students, but it predominantly affects those from low-income circumstances.

Many families don’t have the financial resources necessary to fill their children’s summers with enriching camps and travel experiences that augment lessons learned in school. An extended school year can mitigate summer learning loss and aid in closing the achievement gap for students whose families struggle with poverty.

Try Nisa Thai

Already mentioned that Nisa Thai restaurant is open now, but wanted to thank them for advertising with Oregon Hill.net. Besides supplying some rockin’ pho and a VERY diverse menu, its great that they want to be part of the neighborhood and give this community news site support.

Their ad is click-through to an online food ordering app that makes it easy to get delivery. Be patient though, I understand their delivery business is extremely busy right now. The first time you order using the app, you get 10% off your order.

ART180 Forum with RPD at Main Street Library This Friday

From announcement:

Richmond, Virginia- Richmond Police Department will meet with formerly incarcerated youth, artists, and advocates for juvenile justice reform in a community forum designed to create an exchange of perspectives on issues concerning the juvenile justice system. The event will be hosted at the Richmond Public Library’s Main Library (101 E. Franklin St.) on August 26, 2016, from 5:30-8 p.m. The hope for the forum is to spark an honest and heartfelt conversation about the relationship between the needs of young people and law enforcement.

This event will be the culmination of three trainings conducted that week for up to 75 officers of the Richmond Police Department. During the training the officers will create a piece of art that allows them to present themselves not as officers, but as fellow humans. Their artwork will be exhibited alongside various artworks created by young people incarcerated at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center during a program called Performing Statistics offered by the nonprofit ART 180.

Since June, teens from the detention center have been meeting three days a week at ART 180’s teen art center ATLAS. Working on various projects including poetry, video, photography, and stenciling, their work addresses their experiences in the system and the support they wish they had in the community. “If justice was transformed, I would be doing work, not time,” wrote one teen.

Conceptualized in 2014, the Performing Statistics project is now a permanent program of ART 180 in partnership with Legal Aid Justice Center. The unique collaboration connects incarcerated youth to juvenile justice reform advocates in Virginia with the goal to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. The art created by the teens shares a rare perspective of the juvenile justice system from a first-hand experiencer. Ultimately, Performing Statistics looks to the youth most affected as the experts whose voices are important for building a more just, equitable world. As one of the program participants explained, “It’s not where you’re from, but where you want to go.”

Future events to look out for are an October exhibition at ART 180’s ATLAS gallery that will feature the work created this summer by incarcerated teens,, as well as the program’s second annual Justice Parade for Incarcerated Youth.

More on ART 180 at www.art180.org
More on the Performing Statistics project at www.performingstatistics.org