Petersburg Old Towne Landmarks Walking Tour

This walking tour begins to introduce visitors to the rich and diverse history of Petersburg. Many sites are on the National Register of Historic Places and, therefore, descriptions contain much information about the architecture and historical significance of sites. Most sites are in the Old Towne Historic District, but four are in the Courthouse District and the final site is in the Centre Hill Historic District.

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Entries on this tour

Historic Farmers Bank
Established in 1817, Farmers Bank of Petersburg is among the oldest bank buildings in the United States. The building is now home to a museum that interprets the history of nineteenth century banking and the connection between financial institutions and the history of American commerce. The building is also home to the Petersburg Visitors Center which offers information about nearby historical landmarks, museums, and cultural events. Given the building's historical significance and its beautiful Federal architecture, Farmers Bank was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The building continues to serve an important role as the anchor of Peterburg's Old Town Historic District.
Nathaniel Friend House
Built between 1815 and 1816, the Nathaniel Friend House is a historic home and commercial building in the Petersburg Old Town Historic District. It was built by merchant and plantation owner, Nathaniel Friend, Jr. With its notable residents and beautiful Federal architecture, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
The McIlwaine House
The McIlwaine House dates back to 1794 and is the finest surviving example of Petersburg's early 19th century wooden domestic architecture. The home's general configuration, with high English basement and vertical mass, was obviously thought appropriate for the new men of substance and authority who initiated the industrialization of 19th century America. The three bay 2 1/2-story frame Federal structure consists of a central block with a single 1 1/2story wing on the north side, opening into a side hall passage running from front to rear. The house and wing have A roofs and beaded weatherboarding. The entrance porch is covered by a pediment with modillion cornice and Doric columnns. The house and wing have modillion cornices. The McIlwaine House is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark. The home isprivately owned, occasionally open to the public for special events, and available for event rental.
City Market
The City Market, also known as the Farmers Market, is an octagonal structure in Petersburg's Old Town Historic District. Completed in 1878, the building is important to the history of local commerce and architectural design. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Union Station
Built in 1909-1910, the structure replaced an earlier structure that was damaged by a flood. During its time as a train station, it was a central hub in Virginia up until 1971. Located along the northeastern edge of the Petersburg Old Towne Historic District, Union Station is now owned by the City of Petersburg and serves as a venue for meetings and events.
South Side Railroad Depot
Built in 1854, South Side Depot is the oldest railroad station in Virginia. This depot served the South Side Railroad line, the last railroad left operating during the Siege of Petersburg. When Union troops finally severed the rail line, it ensured the surrender of Petersburg and Richmond, bringing the war to an end. In recent years the station served as a back-drop for the movie Lincoln and television series TURN. The station played a critical role as part of the Confederate logistical efforts during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-1865. In 2017, extensive repairs to the center two-story block are being completed in preparation for building becoming a visitors’ contact center for the Petersburg National Battlefield.
Peter Jones Trading Station
Traditionally this stone structure has been thought to date back to c. 1665 as part of the Peter Jones Trading Station, and therefore the oldest building in Petersburg. Also called the Stone Lumber House, this property was part of the original Fort Henry tract owned by Abraham Wood and Peter Jones, his son-in-law, in the 17th century. It is located at the most historic intersection of Old and Market Streets, just south of the Appomattox River. Fort Henry served an important role in early colonial exploration and trade with the Indians.
Golden Ball Tavern (1750-1944)
Located at the southeast corner of Grove Avenue and North Market Streets, the Golden Ball Tavern was reportedly built about 1750. The original tavern included a dwelling house which was added in 1764 by Richard Hanson, a prosperous tobacco merchant and fervent Loyalist who fled Virginia in 1776. In 1781, British troops occupied the city and the officers were quartered at the tavern. The tavern was expanded in the 1820s and rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire in 1850. The structure was razed in 1944 to create room for a parking lot. Today, the land where the historic tavern stood is owned by the Historic Petersburg Foundation, Inc.
Appomattox Iron Works
Appomattox Iron Works is a complex of nine structures that produced agricultural and industrial products in downtown Petersburg, Virginia. The foundry business opened in 1872 and moved to the current location in 1899. The foundry operated until 1946, the machine shop until 1952, and the mill and supply store until 1972. In 1976, the Appomattox Iron Works complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Elizabeth Keckley Residence in 1844
Born a slave in Dinwiddie County, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907) purchased her freedom in 1855 and supported herself as a seamstress, first in St. Louis and then in Washington, D.C. Her skills brought her to the attention of Mary Todd Lincoln, who hired Keckley in 1861. She became Mary Lincoln's favorite dressmaker and later her personal companion, confidante, and traveling companion. It was a remarkable friendship between two very different women, but it ended with the publication of Keckley's memoir in 1868.
Exchange Building and Petersburg Siege Museum
The Exchange Building in Petersburg's Old Town Historic District was completed in 1841 and housed a Merchants Exchange bank. Over the years, its purpose and use has changed, though its striking Greek Revival architecture has remained unaltered. Today, the Exchange Building is home to the Siege Museum, which provides a civilian perspective on the Civil War in Petersburg. The Exchange Building is the only National Historic Landmark in the City of Petersburg and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.
Hiram Haynes Coffee House
The building dates to 1814. Although not well documented, Poe is reported to have honeymooned there with his child bride Virginia Clemm, staying in a second-floor suite above his friend’s coffee shop.
High Street Residences
High Street exhibits a wide variety of 19th-century architectural styles. Viewed from Market Street, on the north side of High Street are May’s Row (## 217, 219, 221 and 223) and Smith’s Row (##209, 211, and 215). Smith’s row is a well detailed example of Federal townhouses. May’s Row is a well detailed example of Italianate style Houses. On the south side of High Street is Baltimore Row (## 230, 232, 235, 236 and 238), built in 1870 on the site of the first Second Presbyterian Church which had been organized in 1841. A great many more residences can be found on High Street.
The Trapezium House
Built in 1817 (after the fire of 1815), this architectural curiosity by an eccentric Irish bachelor Charles O’Hara, is in the form of a trapezium, a four-sided figure with no two sides parallel. Tradition has it that a West Indian servant persuaded O’Hara that a house without right angles could not harbor evil spirits. In fact, the lintels of two doors appear to have been tilted deliberately, and mantels, floors, and other elements converge on an imaginary vanishing point so that the interior appears to be elongated. The house is now privately owned and not open to the public. The structure is Federal in style, brick, three stories; gable roof with three bays. The façade is Flemish-bond. Entrance with fanlight is located in the north bay.
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
St. Paul's Church was constructed between 1855-57 in the Gothic style after the plans and supervision of the Baltimore architects Niernsee and Neilson. Modifications were made to the building in 1903 when the chancel was enlarged and in 1922 when a Parish House was built adjacent to the structure. The Rectory, built in ca. 1860, stands to the north of the church. One of the most famous communicants of St. Paul's was General Robert E. Lee who worshiped at the church during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65. Lee's son, W.H.F. Lee was married in the church in 1867.
Petersburg City Hall
The Petersburg City Hall stands as a superb example of mid-19th-century Revival architecture. Constructed between the years 1856-1859, to serve as the U.S. Customs House and Post Office the building, it was designed by Ammi B. Young, then Supervising Architect of the U. S. Treasury Department. The dignified granite "palazzo" is a commanding symbol of both federal authority in architecture and the city's antebellum economic prosperity.
Tabb Street Presbyterian Church
Erected in 1843, Tabb Street Presbyterian Church is a moving example of Greek Revival style. The church was designed by one of America's foremost architects, Thomas U. Walter of Philade1phia who is best remembered as the designer of the dome of the United States Capitol. The present building is the third to serve the congregation, which was established in 1813. Although Walter worked in numerous historical styles, his proficiency in the Greek is well illustrated in the heroic yet graceful lines if the structure.
Petersburg Hustings Courthouse
The Courthouse, constructed between 1838-1840, is a Classical Revival structure that is of both architectural and historical importance to the City of Petersburg and to the State of Virginia. The Petersburg Courthouse houses one of the five remaining hustings courts in Virginia and, for that matter, in the entire United States. Historically, the courthouse played a major role during the 1864-1865 Siege of Petersburg. Union troops used the tower for a sighting mark and spared the structure from the bombardment. Both sides relied upon the clock in the tower as an accurate timepiece.
Centre Hill Mansion
Built between 1818 and 1823, Centre Hill Mansion is an historic mansion overlooking the Appomattox River that has been home to a Revolutionary War veteran, a plantation owner, and a several social and political leaders. The residence was used as both a Confederate and Union headquarters during the Civil War. Owing to the influence of the families that called Centre Hill home, three United States presidents have paid visits to the house. Centre Hill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and is part of the Centre Hill Historic District. It is now a museum open for tours.

This tour was created by Petersburg Preservation Task Force User on 09/30/17 .

This tour has been taken 720 times within the past year.

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