Photo by Jay Paul
When a lineup of ceremonial figures and politicians broke ground for the First Freedom Center in November 2012, developer Glade Knight, chief executive officer of Apple REIT, noted that the corner lot at 14th and Cary streets in Shockoe Slip is “truly hallowed ground” and that “[Thomas] Jefferson would be very pleased” with what was being built there, according to Style Weekly. What stands there now, partly, is a 2,200-square-foot exhibition honoring the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, which Jefferson drafted in 1777. On Jan. 16, the center will hold its grand opening in recognition of National Religious Freedom Day and the 229th anniversary, to the day, of the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of the statute — also the basis of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment — on that very site. The First Freedom Center might not have come to fruition without the economic leverage of the two new hotels that are adjacent to it. Even in Richmond, there have been stranger pairings than a hotel and a historical exhibition space. If that’s what it takes to keep one of our inalienable natural rights in mind, we won’t lose sleep over it.