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Harry's Hidden Gems
Join Harry Kollatz Jr. on a video tour of five corners of town that you may find of interest if you’re new, and if you’ve been here a while but have never had these experiences, well — now you’ve got no excuse not to see them.
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Photo by Jay Paul
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Photo courtesy the Poe Musuem
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Photo courtesy Linden Row Inn
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Photo by Justin Vaughan
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Photo courtesy University of Richmond
Here are a few corners of town that you may find of interest if you're new, and if you've been here a while but have never had these experiences, well — now you've got no excuse not to see them.
1. Pocket Parks
Paradise, between Vine Street and Allen Avenue, Floyd and Grove avenues; and Scuffletown Park, between Strawberry Street and Stafford Avenue, Park and Stuart avenues. A 2011 storm took down its centuries-old Paradise tree, but the concrete park decorations designed in 1968 by Carlton Abbott, now festively painted, are juxtaposed against a curvaceous brick wall, a line of cypresses and several other large trees. The Friends of Paradise Park completed a mural project in 2009 and grandly revived the park, complete with a public acclamation by the No BS! Brass Band. Scuffletown Park, site of the Scuffletown Tavern (circa 1792 to 1910), was dedicated on Sept. 14, 1974, and featured concrete forms similar to those in Paradise. In 1999, the grassroots Friends of Scuffletown Park reclaimed the place that today is an oasis garden spot maintained by volunteers. Come Christmastime, they hold a "Grand Illumination."
2. The Model of Richmond at the Poe Museum
Sculptor Edith Ragland, from 1925 to 1928, constructed a three-dimensional representation of Richmond during the lifetime of Edgar Allan Poe. The piece shows the center of town from Fifth Street, once the site of a mansion named Moldavia where Poe briefly lived prior to attending the University of Virginia, to 25th Street and St. John's Church. It has undergone subsequent touch-ups, the most important of which followed a November 1999 fire. Michelle Dell' Aria and present curator Chris Semtner completed cleaning and rebuilding the model in 2000. The model was then repositioned, and a Poe timeline was added
3. Linden Row Inn Courtyard
Here, in a garden that belonged to merchant Charles Ellis, an orphaned Edgar Allan Poe frolicked as a child. Today, the Linden Row Inn is within the restored series of antebellum row houses. The brick courtyard, with its magnolia trees, fountain and covered tables, maintains a quiet allure. The stacked tier of porches offers a dramatic invitation perhaps to stage a Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams or Chekhov production. Inside, the inn features a rotating series of contemporary art works in a satellite exhibition through the nearby 1708 Gallery. Linden Row became a major landmark in the modern preservation movement when architectural historian Mary Wingfield Scott bought the row of buildings to save it. Bohemians and characters lived there under her indulgent regime.
4. The National's Nanny Room
When renovations were first attempted in the early 1990s at The National Theater (built in 1923), among the second floor offices, a portion of ripped-down wall revealed a doorway and a room used as a nursery. The walls are decorated with stenciled illustrations of puppets and toys suspended from a line that's held taught by fancifully dressed children. To contemporary eyes, there is a definite creepiness factor because the toys are hanging by their necks. This amenity of a nanny room for audience members, however, was traditional in the better theaters of the time. The National, after years of protection by the Historic Richmond Foundation, became the city's premier music venue after its 2008 opening. The nursery is just off the VIP bar.
5. The Luther H. Jenkins Greek Theatre, University of Richmond campus
Richmond book publisher Luther Jenkins, a member of the UR board of trustees and a co-founder of the Richmond Philharmonic Association, provided funds in 1929 for the construction of an outdoor theater. The amphitheatre provides a classical, columned backdrop set amid the bosky campus, below the Gumenick Quadrangle. The amphitheater hosts special events, weddings and May Day celebrations. Jenkins, who started as a printer's assistant, built his own book manufacturer by 1902 at Allison and Broad streets, where Richmond magazine maintains its offices in what's called the Bookbindery Building.