Railroad Stations: 501 2nd St. for Atlantic Coast Line R.R. and Norfolk and Western Ry.; Dunlop and Appomattox Sts. for Seaboard Air Line Ry.
Bus Stations: 115 W.Washington St. for Greyhound Bus Line; 13 Sycamore St. for Carolina Coach Line; Wythe St. near Sycamore St. for Richmond-Petersburg Bus Line.
Taxis: Fare 25¢ within city limits, 35¢ across town, $ 1 per hour.
Local Busses: Fare 7¢.
Traffic Regulations: No U-turns in business district; 30-minute parking limits.
Accommodations: 7 hotels; tourist homes.
Information Service: Chamber of Commerce, 209 N.Sycamore St.; A.A.A., Hotel Petersburg, 16 W.Tabb St.
Motion Picture Houses: 8, including 3 for Negroes.
Golf: Country Club of Petersburg, Johnson Rd. at Lee Park, 9 holes, adm. by arrangement, greens fee $1; Municipal Golf Course, Lee Park, S.Boulevard and Johnson Rd., under construction (1939).
Swimming: Lee Park, S.Boulevard and Johnson Rd., open 9-7:30 weekdays, 1-7:30 Sun., May 15 to Sept. 15, fee, adults 10¢ a.m., 15¢ p.m., children 5¢ a.m., 10¢ p.m., suits 25¢ and 35¢.
Tennis: Lee Park, S. Boulevard and Johnson Rd., 9 courts, free; Country Club of Petersburg, Johnson Rd. at Lee Park, 4 courts, adm. by arrangement.
Annual Events: 'The Ninth of June,' Memorial Day observance; Southside Virginia Fair, 2nd week in Oct.; Virginia Amateur Field Trials, Camp Lee, Nov.
Along the short narrow streets of the downtown commercial section, survivals of the more remote past hold their own with false fronts of the late nineteenth century and with modern buildings. Within sight of a tangle of tracks surrounding the union depot is Petersburg's water front, a bottled-up arm of the Appomattox formed by a peninsula containing the old town of Pocahontas. Both sides of this estuary are lined with factories and wharves, and in the stream weather-beaten barges, generally loaded with lumber, pick their way among anchored pleasure craft.
Lengthy Sycamore Street mounts southward and crosses busy railroad tracks into a residential section. Past the deep landscaped ravine cut by Lieutenant Run the widened thoroughfare swerves through the fashionable suburb of Walnut Hills, wedged between former battlefields and Lee Memorial Park, Petersburg's summer playground. Just back of the riverfront buildings lies a slum district, composed of white and Negro families, that finds counterparts in the sections bordering sinuous Halifax Street, midtown. At intervals, the brick hulks of enormous tobacco plants cling to the Atlantic Coast Line tracks that pass through the heart of the city. On industrial East Bank Street, peanut processing plants mingle with tobacco warehouses, while trunk and bag factories give a commercial air to the West End, pressed on the south by a park, the fair grounds, and Alms House Farm.
The city has its share of ancestor worshipers, counterbalanced by citizens looking toward personal and group achievement. The art of gracious living survives in clubs and homes, and old inhabitants retain Virginia idioms that have all but disappeared in many other parts of the State. People are still 'right much' interested in family trees, refer to kitchens as 'cook rooms,' and call relatives 'kinfolks.'
Although the Negroes of Petersburg, 44 per cent of the population, have developed an educated group, with a social and cultural life that centers about two educational institutions, the majority still live in crowded sections and gain their livelihood by menial and domestic work.
The beginning of Petersburg dates from 1645, when the general assembly directed that Fort Henry be built at the falls of the Appomattox River. The next year the assembly provided that the fort be given to Abraham Wood for three years, on condition that he keep ten men there for its protection. He established a trading post and cultivated friendly relations with Indians, who furnished guides and hunters. Thus reinforced, between 1650 and 1671 Wood undertook two journeys of exploration westward.
Peter Jones, who married Wood's daughter, succeeded his father-in-law as manager and proprietor of the trading post, which became known as Peter's Point. The settlement figured prominently in Bacon's Rebellion (1676), when unfriendly Indians were driven from the village.
William Byrd II in 1733 envisaged two cities, 'one . . . to be called Richmond, and the other at the Point of the Appamattuck River, to be nam'd Petersburgh.' The strategic position at the head of navigation indicated to him the future growth of Petersburg. As it is today, the city represents the amalgamation of Petersburg, laid out in 1748; Blandford, established the same year; Pocahontas, constituted a town in 1752; and Ravenscroft, a settlement that meanwhile had grown up on a triangle enclosed today by Halifax, Sycamore, and Shore Streets. These four were united and incorporated in 1784, and 'stiled the town of Petersburg.'
During the Revolutionary War the city was too important to be overlooked by the adversary. In 1781 General Benedict Arnold and General William Phillips, commanding 2,500 British troops, destroyed stores in Petersburg and pillaged the community despite the valiant efforts of General von Steuben and General Muhlenburg. British forces, augmented on May 20, 1781, by the army of Cornwallis, started from Petersburg four days later on the journey that ended at Yorktown.
For years before the Revolution and until the War between the States, a race track, a theater, many comfortable and merry taverns, and hospitable homes made Petersburg a popular stopping-place for travelers and a jolly center for long visits. When George Washington paused here on his southern tour (1791), he found, according to his diary, that Petersburg, containing 'near 3,000 souls,' received 'at the Inspections nearly a third of the Tobacco exported from the whole State besides a considerable quantity of wheat and flour.' He wrote also of telling a lie: 'Having suffered very much by the dust yesterday, and finding that parties of Horse, and a number of other Gentlemen were intending to attend me part of the way to day, I caused their enquiries respecting the time of my setting out, to be answered that, I should endeavor to do it before eight o'clock; but did it a little after five.' The mayor of Petersburg is said to have bestowed upon Washington during this visit the title 'father of his country.'
Across from the town of Petersburg, according to Thomas Anburey's Travels in the Interior Parts of America (1776-81), was 'a kind of suburb, independent of Petersburg, called Pocahunta, . . . the principal trade of Petersburg arises from the exporting of tobacco, deposited in warehouses and magazines . . . up to which sloops, schooners, and small vessels continually sail.'
During the War of 1812 the territory furnished a company under Richard McRae, which distinguished itself at Fort Meigs. These soldiers, jauntily wearing cockades, gave President Madison occasion to can Petersburg the 'Cockade City,' a name that has held through the years. In Petersburg, John Daly Burk, Irish refugee, began his history of Virginia; Aaron Burr and his daughter, Theodosia, lived here in 1805; Winfield Scott started his brief law career; and the returning La Fayette was lavishly entertained here. Joseph Jenkins Roberts (1809-76), who migrated to Liberia in 1829, was born in Petersburg. The American Colonization Society appointed him in 1842 the first Negro governor of Liberia; when the country was proclaimed a republic in 1847, Roberts was elected the first president.
After 1812 Petersburg overshadowed Richmond in many respects. Theatrical companies, booked for Petersburg, went to Richmond incidentally. Disastrous fires occurred in 1815 and 1826. The first general conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, meeting in Petersburg in 1846, made history through the organization of Southern Methodism. Four years later Petersburg achieved the status of city. The Southern Star, the first steamboat to reach Petersburg, was appropriately welcomed in 1858.
The War between the States ravaged the little city on the Appomattox. Though at first no battles were fought near by, Petersburg sent 17 companies to the front. In 1864 the city became the 'last ditch of the Confederacy.' Railroad lines through Petersburg constituted an artery of supply for Richmond and made the city a Federal objective. The long and terrible siege of Petersburg marked the downfall of the Confederacy. Here the South made its last stand against superior Federal forces. The fall of Petersburg led directly to the surrender at Appomattox.
The city made a new start after 1865. By 1880 there were 70 more industries than existed here 20 years earlier. Census tabulations of ensuing years showed steady gains. In 1888 a Negro, John Mercer Langston, born in Surry County in 1848, was elected to Congress from the Fourth Virginia Congressional District. He had studied law in Ohio, had been minister to Haiti and president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate institute. Although his election was contested, and although he was not seated until two months before the expiration of his term, Langston holds the distinction of being the only Virginia Negro Congressman.
Modern Petersburg takes pride in its industries. Here some 4,000 wage earners are paid annually about $4,000,000. With a plug and twist tobacco factory, preparing annually 6,000,000 pounds for export; a large cigarette factory, making more than 4,000,000,000 cigarettes annually; two stem meries and rehandling plants; and three auction warehouses employing 2,100 people, chiefly Negroes, whose annual wages are $1,200,000, Petersburg has earned an important position in the manufacture of tobacco. It boasts, in addition, a luggage factory that employs 1,500 people. Among other industries are pen and pencil plants, a silk mill, a pants and overall factory, a mill that makes napkins and tablecloths, three peanut factories, and plants that produce optical lenses, flour, woodwork, and furniture.
1. GOLDEN BALL TAVERN (open), SE. corner Grove Ave. and N.Market St., is an unpainted frame building with brick ends and dormers along its gabled roof. Now a lunch room, this tavern was built about 1750. From the time of its erection until 1825, its sign of a large golden ball was famous in Virginia. The tavern was host to Washington in 1791 and was popular with settlers and trappers. During the British occupation of Petersburg in 1781 the scarlet-coated officers had quarters here.
2. The OLD MARKET PLACE (open daily), bounded by Grove Ave., Rock St., River St., and Cockade Alley, is an octagonal red brick building with twin chimney pots at each angle and a roof extending over the sidewalks. It was erected in 1879 to supersede a simple frame building. The site for a public market was donated in 1805 by Robert Bolling. In its early days it was the only place where meats and vegetables could be sold. The building is now leased by operators of a grocery store and meat market.
3. The COURTHOUSE (open 8:30-5 weekdays, 8:30-1 Sat.), E. end of Courthouse Ave., facing N.Sycamore St., erected in 1835, is a brick building in Greek Revival style with a gray stucco finish. The wide portico has four fluted stone columns in free classical design. An ornate cupola with a clock is surmounted by a figure of justice.
4. WEST HILL (private), E.Tabb St. between Monroe and Adams Sts., is a long frame house on a very high stuccoed-brick basement. Tall narrow dormers line the gabled roof, and within there is a fine Chippendale staircase. The house was built shortly after the Revolution by Robert Bolling and was the home of the family until the larger mansion, Center Hill, was erected. West Hill later housed the stewards of the Bolling estate.
5. CENTER HILL (open by arrangement), on a court off N. side Franklin St. between Jefferson and Adams Sts., is a two-story brick mansion of 30 rooms approached by a circular drive. The house has a low hip roof and wide columned verandas facing north and south. Built about 1825 and remodeled in 1850, Center Hill, which succeeded Bollingbrook Hill as the residence of the Bolling family, was noted during three-quarters of a century for entertainment on a grand scale. Following Lee's evacuation of Petersburg, Center Hill became the headquarters of the Federal Major General George L. Hartsuff. Lincoln made the quip while visiting here, 'General Grant seems to have attended sufficiently to the matter of rent.' The house has been acquired by the Government to be used as a museum and headquarters of the National Park Service.
6. EAST HILL is on a knoll between N.Jefferson St. and the Atlantic Coast Line tracks. This is the SITE OF BOLLINGBROOK, Colonial house of the Bollings. Erected by Major Robert Bolling about 1725, it was originally two separate buildings; the larger burned in 1855 and the smaller was razed in 1915. Twice headquarters of the British in 1781, it was bombarded by La Fayette. While Phillips and Arnold had headquarters here, Phillips died. From his deathbed he remarked querulously that the Americans would not even let him die in peace.
7. BLANDFORD CEMETERY (open 9-5 daily), E. side Crater Road at city limits, stretches placidly beneath large, ancient trees. The oldest stone, marking the grave of Richard Fairbrough, reads 1702. Veterans of six wars are buried here, including 30,000 Confederates killed in the Siege of Petersburg. Among the epitaphs are those of William Skipwith, Baronet and Cavalier, who fled Cromwell's wrath; of Herbert, plain squire and stout Roundhead; of the British commander, General Phillips; of John Daly Burk, Irish refugee and historian, who was killed in a duel; of the Corsican, Antommatti, who shot himself in the church, for unrequited love. A shaft commemorates Captain Richard McRae and his Petersburg Volunteers, who 'consecrated their valor at the Battle of Fort Meigs' in 1813.
The claim is made for Blandford, as for several other Virginia cemeteries, that here was the scene of the first Memorial Day ceremony. The story goes that Mrs. John A. Logan, wife of the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, visited the cemetery in 1,866 and spied Miss Nora Fontaine Davidson, a schoolteacher, and her pupils putting flowers and tiny Confederate flags on the soldiers' graves. Shortly afterward General Logan issued a proclamation for the observance of Memorial Day.
BLANDFORD CHURCH (open 9-5 daily; key at office), W. edge of cemetery, is a gabled T-shaped brick building, standing peacefully among trees draped, like itself, with ivy. The walls bear scars of bullets fired in 1864-65. The Colonial building--'the Brick Church of Bristol Parish'--is now a Confederate memorial chapel. Here among marble tablets erected to honor Revolutionary patriots and between memorial windows, one given by each Southern State, are inscriptions in bronze to commemorate incidents and personages of the 1860's. On a tablet is inscribed an elegy, written in 1841 and attributed to Tyrone Power I.
The church was first a rectangular structure, erected in 1735-37 on Wells' Hill. The long transept on the north side was begun in 1752 and completed in 1764. In 1757 a wall was built around the churchyard. When Petersburg was incorporated, the boundary was run so as to embrace the 'Church on Wellses Hill.' After St.Paul's Church was built in 1902-06, Blandford was abandoned. The Petersburg Ladies Memorial Association in 1901 restored it as the memorial chapel.
8. CENTRAL PARK, NE. corner S.Sycamore and E.Fillmore Sts., now shaded by lofty trees, was formerly a smooth green known as Poplar Lawn. Scene of demonstrations and open forum for distinguished orators, the site has served as race track, drill and mobilization ground, and was a hospital area during the siege of 1864-65. Here, mounted upon a stone base, is the POCAHONTAS BASIN, a roughly oblong piece of gray stone, hollowed out. In it, according to local legend, bathed the Indian princess.
9. The LAWN (private), 244 S.Sycamore St., a tall red brick house with ivy blanketing its walls and massive chimneys obscuring its gable ends, extends back among magnolias and boxwood bushes. It was erected about 1825 by George Bolling.
10. SOUTHERN COLLEGE (open by arrangement), 220 S.Sycamore St., occupying several gray buildings of brick and frame construction, was granted a charter in 1863, a year after its founding by William Thomas Davis, and was first called Southern Female College. The land it occupies was part of the settlement of Ravenscroft.
11. The WILLIAM R. McKENNEY FREE LIBRARY (open 9-9 Mon., Wed., Fri.; 9-6 Tues., Thurs., Sat.), NE. corner S.Sycamore and E.Marshall Sts., formerly a residence, is a two-story building of stuccoed brick. The mid-nineteenth-century house was built by John Dodson, then mayor of Petersburg, and was later the home of General William Mahone. The library contains about 30,000 volumes; Virginiana, including Nimo's Notes; and a small museum.
12. The WALLACE-SEWARD HOUSE (private), 204 S.Market St., a red brick house with a high front porch supported by iron columns, was built in 1855 by Thomas Wallace and described at the time as 'a costly, well designed, and handsome residence.' For a few hours following the evacuation of Petersburg the abandoned building was occupied as headquarters by General Grant. On the porch Grant discussed with President Lincoln, just arrived from City Point, the terms of the expected surrender of General Lee.
13. The MUNICIPAL MARKET, on the triangle formed by Halifax and Harrison Sts. and South Ave., is a large brick building erected in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. In stalls within the building are sold all manner of meats, fruits, and vegetables, shipped from afar or brought by farmers from neighboring counties. On the sidewalks are vendors' stands, tempting purchasers with bright flowers and fresh vegetables.
14. TRAPEZIUM PLACE (open by arrangement), 244 N.Market St., is a three-story red brick house with no right-angled corners and no parallel walls. This architectural curiosity was erected in 1815 by an eccentric Irishman, Charles O'Hara. He followed, it seems, the plans of a West Indian servant, who claimed that the peculiar construction of the house would ward off evil spirits. For years the place was known as 'Rat Castle,' because of the pet rats O'Hara kept. He is believed to have served in the British army, and his habit of appearing on the Queen's birthday, dressed in a uniform, earned him the title of 'General.'
15. STIRLING CASTLE (private), 320 W.High St., a two-story white frame house on a red brick foundation, has a square portico with fluted Ionic columns. Neat servants' quarters stand in the rear. The house was built in 1735 by Peter Jones III on a site eight miles from present Petersburg. After Jones's death the 'wooden castle' was rebuilt in the newly established town.
16. The BEASLEY HOUSE (open by arrangement), 558 W.High St., is a two-story frame building, mildly mid-Victorian. From November 1-28, 1864, General Lee had headquarters here. A small weatherboard building in the yard was used as Lee's office.
17. The BISHOP PAYNE DIVINITY SCHOOL (open by arrangement), S.West St. between Wilcox and Stainback Sts., occupies two brick and two frame buildings. Organized in 1884, it has (1939) four full-time professors and 13 students. It is the only seminary in the United States for Negro clergymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church and has trained two-thirds of the Negro ministers of that denomination.
18. BATTERSEA (private), N. end of Battersea Lane, in spite of shabbiness, can still be described in the words of the visiting Marquis de Chastellux (1780: 'The house is decorated in the Italian rather than the British or American style, having three porticoes at the three principal entrances, each of them supported by four columns.' The house consists of a hip-roofed main part extended by passage-linked wings. The interior woodwork, including a Chippendale stairway, is exceptionally fine. Prior to the Revolution Battersea was built by Colonel John Banister, first mayor of Petersburg. Because of his active participation in the patriotic movement, Banister seems to have been 'a. particular object of spite to the British,' who visited his home in 1781, destroyed his furniture, and mutilated the house.
19. PRIDE'S TAVERN (closed for restoration, 1939), N.West St. near Norfolk & Western R.R. tracks, is a group of red brick buildings dating from the Revolutionary period. Long offering travelers the comfort for which Petersburg 'ordinaries' were renowned, it was a meeting place for wealth and fashion, especially while Pride's Race Track operated near by.
20. MOUNTAIN VIEW (private), McKenzie St. opposite N. end South St., a red brick residence, stands on what is believed to be the site of Fort Henry. It is claimed that fragments of the fort are incorporated in the house and that the low stone building at one end of the lot was the home of Captain John Flood, first commander of the fort. Mountain View was owned in 1830 by Dr.Donald McKenzie, president of the early Petersburg Railway Company. During the War between the States General Henry A. Wise had headquarters here; later the Federal commander, Lloyd Collins, occupied the house.
21. VIRGINIA STATE COLLEGE FOR NEGROES, N. end of Campbell's Bridge, covers 300 elevated acres above the Appomattox River. On the campus Of 37 acres are 31 brick buildings; the rest of the land is an experimental farm. Established in 1882 as the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, it was created largely through the activities of public-spirited Negroes, particularly A.W.Harris, of Petersburg, who introduced the bill to establish the institution. Inadequate State support long retarded its progress. In 1902 the name was changed to Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, and in 1920 the institute was made the Negro land-grant college of Virginia. The college has steadily increased its enrollment and the standard of its 23 courses of instruction, which include liberal arts, agriculture, manual crafts, and a department of education. In 1930 the name of the institution was changed by the legislature. Enrollment in 1937-38 was 1,005, of which 576 were women.