Tobacco and Trolleys: Industry and Transportation
Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
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Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
RICHMOND
Shockoe Slip Historic District

Shockoe Slip

Shockoe Slip warehouses
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development

 

Shockoe Slip Historic District, Richmond’s oldest mercantile district, is a dense area of late 19th-century commercial buildings. The district takes its name from and centers around a triangular cobblestone plaza bounded by East Cary, South 13th, and Canal Streets. Because of its proximity to the canal and the James River, steady quantities of tobacco and produce passed through “The Slip,” especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. Nearly all of the original buildings burned to the ground during the calamitous Richmond evacuation fire of 1865 during the Civil War. Because of the fire, the historic buildings that survive in Shockoe Slip today date mostly to the late 19th century, reflecting the quick rebuilding of the area after the war. An ornate fountain in the center of the plaza dates from 1905 and originally supplied water for the teams of horses that once hauled goods through the area. The fountain has an urn-type design in the Italian Renaissance style, with an octagonal base in solid stone. Charles S. Morgan donated the fountain whose inscription on one side reads “In memory of one who loved animals.”

historic Shockoe Slip

Historic postcard of Shockoe Slip
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

Most of the historic buildings in the district are from two to four stories in height and were constructed as mills, warehouses, and wholesale outlets, with some serving light industry. The majority are of brick construction in a modified Italianate style, with cast iron detailing (some locally-made) such as window lintels and storefronts. Most of the district’s buildings have new adaptive uses. They now house restaurants, cafes, shops, offices, and residences. Consequently, Shockoe Slip has a new life as a fashionable entertainment and retail center following preservation efforts that began between c. 1970 and c. 1980. The district retains a compact urban feeling and contrasts strongly with the cluster of tall modern bank buildings to the immediate west.

Prominent buildings within the district include the Columbian Block of 1871 at 101 Shockoe Slip and the 1870 Bowers Brothers Coffee Building at 104 Shockoe Slip, both of which front Shockoe Slip proper. The W.R. Hill Building at 114 Virginia Street dates to 1879 and features a 20 bay long cast iron shop front produced by Richmond architectural ironworker Asa Snyder. The four-story Donnan-Asher Iron-Front Building at 1207-1211 East Main Street from 1866, the year following the evacuation fire, is one of Richmond’s most impressive iron-fronted buildings. It is in an Italianate style reminiscent of Venetian Renaissance palaces. Other notable buildings are the former Ladybird Hat Factory of 1907 at 140 Virginia Street, recently renovated for office and restaurant use; and, at 125 South 14th Street, a circa 1910 industrial building housing a contemporary furniture store.

Plan your visit
Shockoe Slip Historic District is located from 12th St. to 15th St. and Main St. to Dock St. on the southeastern outskirts of Richmond’s central business district. Shockoe Slip Historic District is Richmond’s oldest mercantile center and home to a lively assortment of restaurants, shops, and entertainment venues in close proximity to the Canal Walk and Capitol Square. For information, visit the Richmond River District website.  A number of buildings in the Shockoe Slip Historic District have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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