When I first moved to Richmond, Virginia I landed a position as administrator for the Kent-Valentine House, headquarters for the Garden Club of Virginia. I felt privileged to associate myself with this venerable organization and to work in such beautiful surroundings.
I loved being in the heart of historic downtown Richmond. During my lunch hour, I’d take walks, visiting many historic spots along the way. A natural point to start my tour is the Kent-Valentine House.
Majestic magnolia trees flank the antebellum mansion. Ionic columns support a veranda crowned by a wrought iron balcony (imagine Evita belting out “Don't Cry for Me Argentina”). The house was built in 1845 for Horace Kent, a wholesale dry goods merchant. In the early 1900s the house was sold to the Granville Valentine family who added the beautiful east wing and third floor. The Colonial Revival style of the new wing blends beautifully with the Gothic Revival one designed for the Kents.
In 1971, the Garden Club of Virginia purchased the house and completely restored the house to its original design, complete with tiered chandeliers and ornate fireplaces.
My cozy office, complete with fireplace and adjoining kitchen, overlooked a lovely garden.
Across the street from the Kent-Valentine is the Linden Row Inn, a historic urban hotel with a European feel, consisting of seven row houses built in the mid-1800s. As a child, Edgar Allan Poe played in the garden that is now the hotel’s garden courtyard. Legend has it that the garden is the “enchanted garden” in Poe’s poem, “To Helen.”
A short walk up East Franklin Street is the Jefferson Hotel. Opened in 1895, this elegant hotel is considered one of the finest in America, suggesting a more gracious era in hospitality. The Rotunda lobby is magnificent, and no pictures can do it justice. Just to sit and watch the passing parade soothes the spirit.
I often walked across the James River via the suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge. The prize at the end of the bridge is Belle Isle, a small island and city park that lies within the river. Regrettably, I never had time during my lunch hour to explore the park. But I enjoyed the walk to its edge.
The Fountain is the kind of place where serious readers while away the hours as they browse. They may get so lost in the world of books that they fail to notice the stamped tin ceiling, wooden shelves, and exposed brick wall that display oil paintings created by local artists. In “Reunion in Shockoe Slip,” the story I contributed to the Virginia is for Mysteries Vol. 2 anthology, a successful mystery author is signing copies of her latest bestseller at the Fountain Bookstore when her lover from years before appears before her.
Edgar Allan Poe spent many years in Richmond during the nineteenth century. The Poe Museum displays a vast collection of his manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia, and personal belongings. The local Sisters in Crime chapter participates in the Poe Birthday Bash each January. One year we signed a copy of our Virginia is for Mysteries anthology for Dr. Hal Poe, a descendant of Edgar Allan.
The Virginia State Capitol is the seat of state government, housing the Virginia General Assembly. Thomas Jefferson was one of the designers for this beautiful building. Wandering through the park known as Capitol Square, I passed memorials to prominent Virginians, as well as gardens and fountains.
I visited many other spots on my walk, including the Hollywood Cemetery, resting spot for two US presidents (Monroe and Tyler) and many Confederate generals; Library of Virginia, resource for the study of Virginia history, culture, and government; St. Paul’s Church, a historic church adjacent to Capitol Square; and the Gothic-style Old City Hall.
Pretty nice way to spend a lunch hour. Agree?
Find more information on touring historic Richmond on the Richmond Visitors page at http://www.ci.richmond.va.us/Visitors/Tours.aspx.
Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Vol. 2 are anthologies containing stories written by Virginia mystery authors. The stories are set in and around Virginia and feature state landmarks and locations. In Virginia is for Mysteries I set my story at the Kent-Valentine House; in Vol.2 I chose Shockoe Slip for my setting. For more information on the anthologies, visit http://www.virginiaisformysteries.com/
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Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including the recently-released Murder at the Moonshine Inn. She contributed the stories “A Not So Genteel Murder” and “Reunion at Shockoe Slip” to the Virginia is for Mysteries anthologies.
Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.
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