Sunday, April 06, 2003

In early April 1865, President Abraham Lincoln clambered out of a boat at the Confederate Navy Yard, near Rocketts Landing, and walked up to the White House of the Confederacy to meet his army of occupation. The Valentine Museum marked the anniversary with “Lincoln’s Richmond Walk,” a mapped out walking tour with over a dozen stopping points featuring various interpreters to talk about the city and the events at the end of the war.

I spent a couple of hours at The Market, the new grocery store in Shockoe Bottom, passing out free water, maps, and Museum information. To some people, we looked like a water bake sale, with our folding tables by the sidewalk, and they'd stop their cars and ask how much the water cost.

Then, since it’s a beautiful day, I drove up to Court End and walked to a few sites. Orange Alert barred our entry to the Capitol, but sitting on the portico steps looking at the dogwood was no hardship. The volunteer talked about the evacuation fire and Lincoln's unscripted speech from the Washington monument.

At the Egyptian Building, an older white woman described the people and events of the neighborhood better than I had ever heard before. She told of the 1811 theater fire: 72 (I think) dead, and many of their remains still on site. Funds were raised for a memorial, and since so much money came from Episcopalians, she said, the building became Monumental Church. Almost two hundred years ago, people felt it would be okay to build again on the site of sudden and great loss of life, and indeed built something both somber (a memorial “crypt” to the dead is in the entry) and useful. Because the guide had much else to tell us, we didn’t learn how citizens felt about the design, or whether family of the deceased who were, say, Baptist or Jewish were mad about the persuasion of the church.

Probably contemporary citizens found it challenging to make these decisions, but it seems they did okay, since history geeks and people who come out to educational events still have a chance to remember those lost. Now I feel surer that New York will be able to work out something satisfactory for the World Trade Center.

After spending quality time downtown, I drove out to the antique mall to check our space. April in Richmond cancels out the gloom of 40 degree, rainy days in the winter. The median dogwoods are gone, but those in the yards of Monument Avenue have begun blooming, pink and white. A few early azaleas are opening, too.

I need to sweep the pollen accumulation off the porch, though.

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