“Virginia is for Lovers,” and the weekend of April 30-May 1, LCI students Tianyi Li, Jia Liu, Turki Alzahrani, Ibrahim Hamdan, Han Liu, Shirong Kou, Anye Wang, and Shiwei Yu experienced a glimpse of the history and art of Virginia to love.
Accompanied by Pat Turner, Sondra Schreiber, and Bonnie Sumner, the group began its tour on the west end of Monument Avenue in Richmond. From the statue of Arthur Ashe, the first African-American to win the U.S. Open and Wimbledon and the first African-American to be ranked No. 1 in the world, to the statues of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jeb Stuart, the students learned that while Virginia was the capital of the Confederacy, the people of the commonwealth have embraced all who impacted not only the history of Virginia, but also of the United States.
Continuing on the street that becomes Franklin Street, the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University added splashes of artwork and color to the residences.
The first stop was the Virginia State Capitol building, designed by Thomas Jefferson.
The capitol is home to the General Assembly, the oldest legislature continuously operating in the Western Hemisphere. The rotunda houses a life-size statue of George Washington sculpted by French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon. A statue of Robert E. Lee is placed in the old hall of the House of Representatives at the exact spot where Lee, who had resigned his commission with the United States Army, accepted command of Virginia’s military and naval forces. The Governors’ Gallery just outside of the Governor’s Office includes portraits of L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American elected governor in the United States, and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, former governors who are now U.S. senators.
After spending time at the capitol, the group headed to Church Hill, the oldest neighborhood in Richmond and the location of historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. Ray, an interpreter in colonial attire, described the building as it would have looked in March 1775, when Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty, or give me death” speech, which gave birth to the American Revolution. The group learned that three key figures in attendance that day have special epithets for their roles in the Revolution: George Washington, the sword; Patrick Henry, the words; and Thomas Jefferson, the pen. Ray offered a special thank you to the LCI group and graciously answered questions after his presentation.
It had been a busy day, and there was just enough time to check in to the hotel in the historic Shockoe Slip area of Richmond before heading to a canal tour. Cotton, an enthusiastic captain, regaled the group with descriptions of how the canal had been designed by George Washington in order to provide passage for ships west of the fall line in the James River at Richmond. Dressed in period clothing, Cotton had a surprise as he gave each student an opportunity to pilot the boat.
Bottoms Up, perhaps the most famous pizza restaurant in the city, was the site for dinner.
Sunday morning, everyone had a plentiful breakfast at Joe’s Inn in Richmond’s historic Fan district. Most everyone ordered the “big breakfast,” which consisted of two eggs, three pieces of French toast, home-cooked potatoes, choice of meat, and biscuits.
After breakfast, the group went to the Virginia Historical Society. One of the special exhibits is "The Story of Virginia," which is a travel through 16,000 years of time. The historical society has the only portrait of the Powhatan Indian Pocahontas. Pocahontas sat for the portrait in England after traveling there with her husband, John Rolfe.
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was the final location in Richmond. Here, all had an opportunity to peruse collections on their own.
On the return trip, the group made a brief stop at Appomattox Court House, location of the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant, ending the U.S. Civil War on April 9, 1865.
The trip provided a glimpse of Virginia that most of the students had not visited before. While the students enjoyed what Richmond had to offer historically and culturally, they also had an opportunity to spend time with other students with whom they made new connections.