The streetcar system, as seen on a 20th century postcard. | Photo via VCU Libraries Digital Collections
Rapid transit is on the rise in Richmond. Talk of expanding the GRTC Pulse has included stretching the line further west and adding perpendicular equivalents. But over 130 years ago, Richmond was a leader in transportation innovation — thanks to the electric streetcar.
Several communities had tried to create electric trolley services before the Richmond system cracked the code. Frank Sprague, a former technical assistant to Thomas Edison, designed the system.
Before the advent of electricity, the primary method of transport in cities were horse-drawn vehicles. Many city streets had built-in rails in order to improve the speed and capacity of these vehicles, so the potential of incorporating electricity had captivated the imagination of many around the globe.
Sprague used many of his own inventions to design a 12-mile electric rail system for the Richmond Union Passenger Railway, which would open on February 2, 1888.
In September, the Boston City Council observed the success of the Richmond system in person and returned home to approve an electric street railway of its own — the second in the world. Hundreds of cities followed suit, with almost 900 similar systems built in the country by 1895.
The Richmond system would expand to 82 miles, expanding in tandem with the new suburban neighborhoods in the city. The trolley system was also the site of several social and political struggles, including a 1903 worker strike and a 1904 boycott in protest of racial segregation.
Grand Re-Opening of Bryan Park Bar & Grill | Monday, Jan. 16 | 11-12 a.m. | Bryan Park Bar & Grill, 5516 Lakeside Ave., Richmond | Free | Grab lunch or dinner and meet the new owners of this Lakeside sports bar.
Richmond Film Network Short Film Series | Wednesday, Jan. 18 | 7-9 p.m. | Bowtie Cinemas, 1331 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd., Richmond | $12-$15 | See a selection of short films including “Treasure” from Richmond filmmaker Anthony Parson.
Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen | Thursday, Jan. 19 | 6-9 p.m. | Weinstein JCC, 5403 Monument Ave., Richmond | $30-$35 | This film screening kicks off the 14th Annual Israeli & Jewish Film Festival.
We have a calendar filled with events and activities you can plan for in advance. Click the button below to bookmark ideas for upcoming date nights, family outings, and time with friends.
Mayor Levar Stoney will give the State of the City address on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. The event is returning to an in-person format at Main Street Station. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
If you’re driving downtown today, watch out for road closures and no parking zones. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is also Lobby Day, meaning many citizens and groups will be visiting the General Assembly to speak with legislators. See the full list of traffic impacts. (RVAHub)
The City of Richmond now has an online database to check if your car has been towed. Towing companies will update the list with the identifying information of towed vehicles and the lot address. Information will stay on the site for 14 days. 🚙
The Oak Avenue Complexis opening at the former Highland Springs High School (15 S. Oak Ave.). The Henrico County multipurpose center was designed to connect students and families with community services and career-readiness options. Check out the space at the grand opening tomorrow from 5-6:30 p.m.
Construction should begin soon on an upcoming apartment complex on Brookland Park Boulevard. The 66-unit project will preserve the façade of the former Mizpah Presbyterian Church on the site. Apartments will be restricted to households earning 40-60% of the area median income. 🏠 (Richmond BizSense)
The RPL North Avenue Branch istemporarily closed for repairs after a water pipe burst over the winter holiday. An announcement from the library said the damage was extensive, but that contractors are working to mitigate water infiltration.
If you’re unemployed, recently graduated, or looking to switch jobs, now is a good time to consider the skilled trades industry. Richmond-based company Woodfin - Your Home Team specializes in home services + maintenance needs and can help future pros get started in the field through training and apprenticeships. Learn more.*
Skip the meal hassle with Sunbasket, a meal kit delivery service that makes healthy eating beyond easy. Sunbasket offers 10 different meal plans that work for those with dietary preferences and specific restrictions (think: paleo, gluten-free, veg, diabetes-friendly + more). Bonus: Sign up for $100 off your first four deliveries. 🥕 *
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Arthur Ashe plays in the Southern California Sectional in 1966. | Photo via UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections
The Australian Open starts today at Melbourne Park. 53 years ago, Richmonder Arthur Ashe became the first Black man to win the singles title at the Australian Open — two years after accomplishing the same feat at the US Open.
As a child, Ashe developed his talent for tennis at Brook Field playground, where his father was supervisor. Virginia Union student Ronald Charity became his coach and connected him with the American Tennis Association in 1953. He started working his way up amateur rankings, facing difficulties due to racial segregation at competitions.
Decades later, Ashe was winning bigger titles, including a singles victory at Wimbledon in 1975. He won a men’s doubles title at the Australian Open with partner Tony Roche in 1977.
Bonus: Get an insight on Ashe’s strategic mind in this 1980 segment from “The Dick Cavett Show.”
Today’s issue was written by Robin.
Editor’s pick: The city is still on the hunt for the next Richmond Poet Laureate. Read up on the role and apply before Wednesday, Feb. 1.
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