Address: Church Hill, South of Broad between 23rd and 24th, Richmond, VA 23223 Phone: 804.643.7407
The Historic Richmond Foundation's efforts, commencing in 1956, to preserve and restore a multi-block "Historic Zone" in the city's Church Hill District, led to the acquisition and in varying cases to the reconstruction or refurbishment of numerous aged but significant examples of early architecture. Concentrating its earliest work on a "pilot block" bounded by East Broad and East Grace Streets and by Twenty-Third and Twenty-Fourth Streets, the organization turned dilapidated buildings into new residences, offices, and retail shops or in some cases ordered the demolition of less worthy examples.
One of the most attractive things about the pilot block was not only the quality and importance of many of its surviving structures, but the wonderful vista toward historic St. John's Church, site of Patrick Henry's famous "Liberty or Death" speech, provided by the cobbled alleyway that divided what had come to be called Carrington Square, from the name of one of the earliest surviving houses. Although in need of some refurbishment, the alleyway stimulated imaginative thinking about the creation of a "mews." Drawn from the British idea of a yard, court, or street lined with stables, carriage garages and living quarters, the St. John's Mews was envisioned as a secluded place of respite, recreated as a museum-like setting that would enhance any visitor's experience in appreciating the significance of this restored district.
For assistance with this worthy project, the Foundation approached The Garden Club of Virginia in 1963. Landscape Architect Ralph Griswold was again engaged to develop and implement a plan, one that featured extensive plantings, a mixture of brick and gravel walkways, and the inclusion of cast iron furniture and ornamentation that recalls some of Richmond's finest nineteenth-century architectural and horticultural history.
Note: The images presented here record various stages of the property's landscape restoration. Since additional work has been supported by The Garden Club of Virginia at many properties, these images do not necessarily represent the current-day experience. Also, accession numbers reflect the year in which an image was received by the Virginia Historical Society, not the year in which it was taken.
(Click on image to see larger version)
1. View of the Twenty-Third Street entrance to The Mews with one of the reproduction gas lamps employed to foster a nineteenth-century look to the area.
Slide, St. John's Mews. Museum Collection Accession number: 1997.31.16.B