Soon after English explorers made their way to the falls of the James River in , white settlement began along both banks of the river. Initially part of the Byrd family holdings, the land south of the James River developed from the small trading post of Rocky Ridge into the town of Manchester by Despite its successful economic enterprises, beginning in the late 18th century, Manchester trailed Richmond in size and influence.
While the two cities were connected physically by bridges over the James River and economically through their industries, they did not experience the same level of development.
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In , decades of discussion and speculation about consolidating the two cities culminated in the annexation of Manchester by Richmond. In recent decades, however, renewed interest in urban living has brought entrepreneurs and residents back to historic Old Manchester. William Mayo laid out the initial street plan for Richmond in William Byrd, III inherited the family estate in Manchester operated as the seat of Chesterfield County beginning in In , the General Assembly granted the town a charter to operate as an independent city. Manchester played significant roles in both the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
The Confederate Navy Yard and various gun batteries were located to the east. The two municipalities depended on and competed with each other, and Richmond outpaced Manchester in political influence, population growth and economic prowess. Despite this, Manchester continued to expand.
Since the s, Manchester residents used the James River to power a growing manufacturing sector. Manchester was known for its many mills and factories, which produced flour, textiles, iron products and tobacco for the local population as well as the world market. The bridge terminates in the foreground adjacent to the Manchester Cotton and Wool Manufacturing Company.
Manchester began as an important trading post and developed into an industrial center along the James River. Along the Manchester Commons, tobacco was inspected and stored in warehouses, and mills produced flour, textiles, paper and other products. Entrepreneurs harnessed the power of the James River for these activities through a canal and mill that ran eastward along the shore. Several railways would eventually run through Manchester, crisscrossing the James River with their railroad bridges.
Today Manchester is home to corporations, such as UPS Freight formerly Overnite Transportation and Suntrust Bank, as well as a variety of smaller businesses and retail outlets. Processing cotton into cloth or paper was a major manufacturing activity in Manchester. From to , the company expanded into additional buildings and operated as Standard Paper Manufacturing Company.
A fire severely damaged the complex, but visitors to the Flood Wall River Walk can still see a portion of the addition. These, along with the Gallego and Haxall mills that operated on the Richmond side of the river, made the region a flour manufacturing powerhouse. In , the company became the Dixie-Portland Flour Company, which operated until a devastating fire destroyed much of the complex. Today, Southern States Cooperative occupies the site, which includes two original Dunlop buildings.
Various rail bridges crossed the James River, carrying trains between Richmond and Manchester. In , Southern Railway opened this passenger station on Hull Street. The project is slated to be completed in Overnite founder J. Harwood Cochrane began to purchase properties and clear lots in Manchester, eventually accumulating parcels bordered by Cowardin Avenue, Bainbridge Street, Commerce Road and Riverview Parkway.
By , the foundation had sold the land for a variety of purposes, including the Crestar now SunTrust office buildings and Old Manchester Lofts; Riverview Parkway and the widening of 12th Street; and to the Richmond Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church for neighborhood facilities. Until the late 18th century, transportation between Manchester and Richmond was limited to ferry boats operated by the Coutts family at Rocketts Landing.
Although plagued by floods and in need of constant repair, the bridge officially opened in After the Civil War, the bridge was rebuilt, although flooding destroyed it multiple times. In , Edward Trent gained permission to build a toll bridge at about 9th Street.
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Despite public complaints of its safety and usefulness, the Free Bridge remained in use until , when the Virginia State Highway Department completed the current 9th Street or Manchester Bridge. During the s, federal dollars from the Public Works Administration PWA partially funded construction of a third bridge linking Manchester to Richmond. The Richmond Bridge Corporation directed the project, promoting it as an opportunity to put unemployed citizens to work.
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Lee Memorial Bridge opened on November 3, The bridge connected Belvidere Street on the north side with Cowardin Avenue on the south side, carrying Routes 1 and and passing over Belle Isle. The city charged a 10 cent toll. By , with the bridge paid for and to the chagrin of city officials, Richmond Circuit Court ordered that the toll be removed. During the s, the city discussed replacing the now aging bridge.
In , a new bridge replaced the original. The old Lee bridge is in the foreground, with the new bridge under construction in the background. In , a suspension foot bridge opened beneath the bridge, allowing pedestrians and cyclists easy access to Belle Isle. Hull Street is the retail center of Manchester.
Hull Street is flanked to the north by McDonough, Perry, Porter and Bainbridge Streets and to the south by Decatur Street — all named after naval officers who commanded during various American wars. As Manchester evolved from village to town to city, Hull Street developed into its commercial core. Dry goods stores, bakeries and grocery stores served Manchester residents, who lived in nearby neighborhoods or on Hull Street itself.
Municipal buildings on Hull Street included the city fire station and courthouse. During the early 20th century, Hull Street experienced a surge in commercial construction, including banks and a new post office. Changing living patterns included movement to county neighborhoods, the rise of suburban shopping malls and racial tension resulting from the desegregation of public facilities.
Poverty, especially in the nearby Blackwell and Bainbridge housing projects, created an image of a destitute commercial district. Public efforts to revitalize some of these housing developments during the s and s were small steps. In recent years, private individuals have increasingly chosen to invest in Hull Street, whether through reuse of buildings for apartments and condominiums or retail and restaurant ventures. This Hull Street photograph shows the intersection of streetcar tracks and the Southern Railway line.
Bradley and Ben P. Owen, Jr. Joseph Bryan purchased the newspaper in and relaunched it as The Evening Leader. The Manchester Courthouse built originally operated as the courthouse for Chesterfield County and later for the City of Manchester. The consolidation agreement included a requirement that the building continue to operate as a general courthouse for the City of Richmond, which it continues to do today. Richmond native Albert F. Huntt designed the Classical revival building into which the bank moved in In , the bank building started a new life as a banquet facility called The Bankuet Place.
Soon after the consolidation, the Manchester Station post office opened at Hull Street. It operated at this location until The building has been converted into apartments, and today renters can call the post office home. On April 4, , Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By the s, Hull Street was a very different place from its bustling, midth century counterpart.
Many retail stores became vacant, and buildings deteriorated. Discussions of merging the cities of Manchester and Richmond had been occurring since the s, when petitions first circulated among Manchester residents in favor of consolidation. At this time, Richmond turned down the proposal. During the ensuing decades, the issue arose periodically on both sides, gaining momentum toward the end of the 19th century. By , Richmond City Council went so far as to pass a resolution in favor of consolidation, but with no immediate result.
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In , two committees, one from Manchester and one from Richmond, again discussed the possible merger. The General Assembly passed legislation in that enabled the annexation of cities, paving the way for both cities to enact their own legislation several years later. The Manchester City Council proceeded to take similar action in , and its citizens finally voted to approve the measure on April 4, Eleven days later, on April 15, election certification and official ceremonies completed the action.
Richmonders opposed to the merger forsaw increased expenses from administering another large district. In Manchester, citizens on both sides of the issue voiced strong sentiments. Pro-annexationists held a rally at the Leader Building on the evening of April 14, looking forward to expanded services and infrastructure. The Manchester Anti-Consolidation League, which held a concurrent rally across the street, warned that Manchester would not only lose its independence, but would have increased taxes while receiving inferior services.
At A. Christian of Lynchburg declared the election by Manchester voters in favor of consolidation with the City of Richmond. The Richmond Virginian originally published this and the next photograph.