Janet Giampietro enjoys a cup of coffee at Café Caturra. (Photo by Jay Paul)
When I moved to Midlothian from the Fan in 2004, a friend who grew up in Westover Hills said to me, “When I was a kid, Sycamore Square was the end of the universe. It felt like you had to pack a lunch to go out there.”
It was a sleepy little place, slow to change, steeped in the roots of its coal-mining past. Old churches and historic houses made up what is called the Village of Midlothian, a compact area that comprises a short stretch of Midlothian Turnpike between Woolridge Road and Route 288 and its immediate surroundings.
As governor, Patrick Henry lived in the Salisbury Hunting Lodge in the area that is now the Salisbury subdivision, and Trabue’s Tavern, home of Lt. John Trabue, Revolutionary War soldier and coal-mining magnate, still stands as a private home on Old Buckingham Road. My family has driven past its historic marker so often, we memorized it.
History is evident all over the village but it’s felt — really felt — keenly at the Mid-Lothian Mines Park, a 44-acre preserve that is swiftly becoming the heart and soul of life in the village.
Driving down Woolridge, you can’t miss the 35-foot replica of a coal-mining headstock, the apparatus that was used to lower men and equipment into the mine shafts. Behind that is a small amphitheater where Army marching bands have performed and where the Tacky Light Run 5K kicks off. Across the street is the entrance to the paved path enjoyed by runners, bicyclists and dog walkers year round. Along the path are ruins of the Mid-Lothian Coal Mining Company that serve as a reminder, as the nearby placard reads, of “North America’s first commercial coal mining venture.”
Ruins of the Mid-Lothian Coal Mining Company. (Photo by Janet Giampietro)
How many cafes have you ever visited that boast a year-round Christmas tree, a baby grand
piano and are owned by a former concert pianist who creates ice cream cupcakes and Korean pastries, in between giving piano lessons next door? That’s our Piano Café, owned by Eunice Kim.
From the park you can walk right into The Grove subdivision, a 700-home neighborhood of newer transitionals built in the early 2000s, and you are a stone’s throw from slightly older neighborhoods like Walton Park and Queensmill, which sprang up in the 1970s. Salisbury, Stonehenge, Old Buckingham Station and others surround the Village of Midlothian, and development of the commercial district has kept up. We now have three grocery stores (Kroger, Food Lion and Martin’s) and a fourth (Wegmans) on the way.
The village comprises a short stretch of Midlothian Turnpike between Woolridge Road and Route 288. (Photo by Janet Giampietro)
Round all that out with great schools like J.B. Watkins Elementary, Midlothian Middle and High Schools and the ever-expanding John Tyler Community College.
What really stands out about our shopping centers is the homegrown feel of our many shops and restaurants. How many soda fountains still exist where you can get a fresh-squeezed limeade and a hot dog on a paper plate? Thanks, Midlothian Apothecary!
And even though we have our share of fast food chains, who needs them when we’ve got the Brickhouse Diner, Café Caturra or the award-winning, Latin-infused seafood dining experience that is Pescado’s? Or Capital Ale House, where you can get a great burger and a refill of your growler?
The village is a browser’s paradise, from antiques to comic books. Rock and stamp collectors in the area know of Packard’s, crammed with rocks and gems. Equally crammed to the rafters is the Book Exchange, a treasure of a used bookstore across the street in the Village Market shopping center. Old is made new again at The Lazy Daisy, a consignment shop full of shabby chic and up-cycled furniture and home decor.
The Lazy Daisy consignment shop is full of up-cycled home décor. (Photo by Janet Giampietro)
Yep, the village has everything. Even a YMCA. Filled every day, naturally, with village people.