Evolution of a City as shown through Maps in the Library of Virginia Collections
In 1733 William Byrd II of Westover (1674–1744), one of the colony’s leading landowners, asked his friend William Mayo to lay out a new town to be called Richmond. Mayo called on James Wood, surveyor of Orange County, to assist him in the undertaking.
Byrd used this plat during the first sale of lots in the spring of 1737, listing names of the owners and the lots purchased. The General Assembly established Richmond in 1742 and adopted Byrd’s plan as the official survey.
Richard Young, surveyor for the city of Richmond, compiled at least three early 19th century manuscript plans of the city that show streets, land ownership, canal locks, the downtown area and Capitol Square.
Micajah Bates became Richmond’s city surveyor shortly after Richard Young’s death. His 1835 map of the city depicts it before changes were implemented during his tenure as city surveyor from 1832-1861.
Numbered lots appear along with public buildings, churches, banks, tobacco inspection stations, hotels, and markets. The “Public Square” (Capitol Square) is laid out with rows of trees in neat lines.
This hand-colored aquatint from 1834 provides a panoramic view of Richmond. Looking east, the James River is shown as are the James River and Kanawha Canal, the Capitol, city jail, and Richmond’s first City Hall.
This plan of Richmond shows topographical and cultural features; the author references several important buildings, such as the State Capitol and Penitentiary. The extensive legend provides detail about each.
Hollywood Cemetery is a noted feature as are the Richmond, Potomac and Fredericksburg Railroad lines which went down Broad Street, stopping directly in front of the Library of Virginia’s present day location.
Before leaving the city, soldiers ignited arsenals of military munitions that set fire to several buildings. This map depicts the area consumed by the fire before the Union occupation of the capital.
J.F. Zeilinger Caracristi published this map of Richmond in 1873. A Confederate veteran, he returned to Richmond and worked with engraver Fredrick Geese to compile this map of the city.
Frederick W. Beers, a surveyor by trade, originally prepared surveys in Pennsylvania and began working on county atlases in the western part of the state. He later moved to New York City to work in his family’s firm.
Beers worked with James T. Redd, a well-known Henrico County surveyor, in compiling and publishing this map of the city of Richmond twelve years after the end of the American Civil War.
Richmond City boundaries are outlined in purple, while the color blue identifies Manchester’s political boundaries. The jurisdiction of Richmond City’s Hustings Court is shown in red outline.
City wards are identified as well as political districts in Henrico County, Virginia. Street names are clearly delineated as are the names of property owners in the county. The area’s important water features are also shown.
Maps are often used to promote the purchase and sale of real estate as indicated by this 1886 map of Richmond and Manchester by J. Thompson Brown and Co. Real Estate agents.
This map shows the nine completed annexations by the City of Richmond since 1742. Using color, the Richmond Department of Public Works illustrated which sections were added and when.
This view of downtown Richmond is a snapshot of the city before the Great Depression. Familiar buildings included are the Federal Reserve building, the Capitol building, and Old City Hall.
Important local industries and fields at the time were featured in yellow tiles: Tobacco, Law, Medicine, Banking, Paper, Printing, and Manufactures. Illustrated maps served almost as an advertisement to prospective businesses or tourists.
Illustrator W.M. Lewis used drawings of buildings, structures, and people to highlight Richmond’s tourist attractions in this cartograph, or illustrated map, from 1937. This genre of maps was very popular during the Great Depression.
Historic moments such as "Capt. John Smith Stopped by Falls in James River May 24, 1607" are shown alongside modern achievements such as "Longest Steel Viaduct in World - 2.8 Miles" or "Triple Trunk Line Railroad Crossing - Only one in World."
Research, text and arrangement by Cassandra Britt Farrell. Editing and assistance from Sonya Coleman, Digital Collections Specialist.
Imaging by Mark Fagerburg and Ben Smith Photo & Digital Imaging Services department.
All images from Map Collection, Picture Collection,
Manuscripts & Special Collections, Library of Virginia.