Lunch Break Excursions & Explorations
Working down in Shockoe Bottom can be a bonus to curious history-buffs like myself. The city of Richmond literally started in this low-lying riverside area, and for those who may be interested, all around us are many off-the-beaten-path or “hidden” historic sites to explore within a short walking distance from our office.
There are literally dozens of interesting places to mention, but I’ll start with these four:
The Triple Crossing (5 min. walk from office)
The Triple Crossing is believed to be the only place in North America where three railroads cross at different levels at the same location. The top level was built to provide an alternate path to the notoriously unstable Church Hill Tunnel, which ultimately caved in and buried a work train with fatalities in 1925 (more on that below). The triple crossing has been a Richmond attraction for railroad fans for over 100 years, although the number of photographic angles greatly decreased in the 1990s due to flood wall construction, but I just recently found the classic vantage point of the triple crossing, which still can be seen if you wander over just past the canal walk near our office.
The Abandoned Church Hill Tunnel Entrances
(Western Entrance, 15 min. walk from office.
Eastern Entrance, 25 min. walk from office)
Speaking of the Church Hill tunnel disaster, I’ve always been fascinated by this Richmond legend and cryptic story. This tunnel has been written about and explored by the Times-Dispatch’s Mark Holmberg and also featured on NPR.
I’ve always know about the western tunnel entrance, which is located next to newly renovated condos at E. Marshall & N. 18th St. But, I’ve never seen the mysterious and spooky eastern entrance. Unsealed and still open to this day, this entrance, over by Chimborazo Park, is hidden from view and you have to search it out to find it. But diligent me, I managed to find it. I’m not going to give away its exact location, but will say this…don’t go alone!!
Shockoe Bottom Beach (5 min. walk from office)
Not so much historical as it is cool, I stumbled upon a little oasis in the middle of the city, only a few minutes walk from our office. I christened it Shockoe Bottom Beach. It’s a secluded spot along the river, complete with a peaceful sandy shoreline right across from the only Great Blue Heron Rookery in the city. To find it, you have to venture down to the James River Park Systems Pipeline Walk (which is pretty cool in itself!). Once on the beach, if you look across the river, high in the trees you’ll see dozens of curious stick-bundles up in the branches. These are the Blue Heron nests! You can see them all around feeding, sunning, and just doing their thing. Click here for more info.
Mayo Island Ballpark (5 min. walk from office)
Did you know Mayo Island once had a baseball field? Known as Tate Field and then simply Mayo Island Park, the field was built in 1890 and used all the way up to 1941. It has been said that Babe Ruth even played there in exhibition games!
Eventually closed due to repeated flooding and ultimately a fire, baseball in Richmond was moved inland to where the Diamond stands today. I walked over to Mayo Island a while back to see if there was anything left of the old field. Sadly, the only remnant is just the flat landscape and random concrete slab debris along the riverbanks.
A few fun facts about the field:
Spectators would sometimes sit in boats by the field in hopes to find balls that went into the James River.
In 1938, Jesse Owens, the American sprinter and winner of gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, came to Tate Field bringing in more than 5,000 fans.
In 1939, an angry fan threw a bottle at an umpire and knocked him out.
This is only the tip of the iceburg, there are many other places closeby waiting to be explored!