To view our favorite spots in Manchester, please see the Google Map at the bottom of this page!
Shaking my head: Mm Mm Mm… Manchester. I don’t even know how to begin to approach this subject properly, given the “Manchester” I knew and have always known. The best analogy I have: remember when you went through something really bad? …like maybe a tooth extraction? And then you muttered, “I don’t ever want to go through that again.” Well, that sums up my previous experience, many years ago, with regard to the Manchester District - “I don’t ever want to go through that again!”
Today, I discovered the overnight transformation of Manchester - call it a renaissance, if you will - and it has me spellbound! Blight has been replaced with delight! Where there is still work to be done, many of the spacious homes of generations-past have been renovated. Where renovation wasn’t practical, contemporary homes and duplexes have been built. The number of stylish upscale condominiums and apartments that have sprung up on the fringes of Manchester (where there were once mills, warehouses, weed-ravaged asphalt and abandoned shopping carts) is beyond my wildest imagination. Trendy restaurants and recreational abundance wrap this area up into a little town all its own… and at some point, apparently it was…
A little over a century ago, much of the area we know as “Manchester” was called “Rocky Ridge”. Manchester, an independent city, rested on the James River’s south bank across from Richmond’s downtown. English settlement dates back to the 1600s. Manchester’s significance was enhanced by its connectivity via bridges to Richmond during the Civil War, its reconstruction after the Civil War, and its railroad and riverboat access, particularly as it grew the flour, tobacco and textile industries. History abounds, and for this reason, I recommend history buffs check out this page: Manchester Historic District, Richmond City, Independent Cities, Richmond VA 23224 (livingplaces.com). The Manchester area is just south of Richmond’s Lee Bridge (Rt. 1), 9th St. Bridge (aka Manchester Bridge), and beyond that, the 14th St. Bridge (aka the Mayo Bridge). It is lodged in the midst of Route 1 (Richmond Hwy.), Route 360 (Hull St.) and Commerce Rd. Where transformation continues on a daily basis, I can’t be anything less than blown away by what I witnessed today! I have done my fair share of upcycling (painting houses, rebuilding furnishings or waxing an old car), but I simply had no idea this level of metamorphosis was possible.
Old Manchester homes, primarily constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s and remaining intact today, are two-story variations of Italianate, Queen Anne, Gothic Revival and Colonial Revival influence. The transformations include the building of modern townhomes and row houses, while much of the condominium/apartment base is new high-rise construction or warehouse-converted lofts. And trust me when I tell you that for every one new structure already erected in Manchester, there are at least 20 hard-hatted, hard-working men constructing the next new industrial avant garde property!
Commercially speaking, some of Richmond’s most popular “north-of-the-James” merchants are taking the walk on the Southside and opening up offspring locations in Manchester. Where Legend’s Brewing Co. was psychic and snagged their scenic location back in the 1990s when being in Manchester wasn’t cool [creds to Legend's though, they've always been cool], they are now joined by a number of popular businesses including Stella’s Gourmet Market, the Continental Restaurant & Bar (a Westhampton & Grove Ave. area institution), Dogtown Brewery, Café Zata, Croaker’s Spot Seafood Soul Food, Pig and Brew, to name a few. And if you aren’t drawn to the Manchester groove based on its artsy/industrial appeal, diversity, history or close proximity to downtown, you most certainly should be drawn to it for its recreation! We recommend waking up on a Saturday morning, meandering on down to the Café Zata for your favorite coffee, hitting Stella’s for your picnic provisions of house-prepared entrée’s, delectable desserts and unusual wines, journeying on foot down to the scenic Manchester Flood Wall, in route to the Potterfield Pedestrian/Cycling Bridgeor the Belle Isle Suspension Bridge, and traversing to your picnic destination along Richmond's "River Playground", the James River! Enjoy your picnic on one of the James River islands, across the river at the historic Tredegar Iron Works, or among the murals at the impressive Canal Walk. THEN, on the way home, stop by Basic City Beer Co. or Benchtop Brewing Co. for a refreshment and to rest those feet, before hitting Hatch Local Food Hall to find whatever your heart desires for supper. But anyway, let’s just say the outdoor opportunities are many, are mighty appealing, and yes, are in walking/running/biking/hiking distance. Rest up! We'll be walking the mother (as in nature) of all trails, theButtermilk Trail, tomorrow and then it's off to the Manchester Climbing Wall, before heading to the Richmond Railroad Museum!
In closing, I must thank my friend of 50 years, my partner-in-crime, my soul sister, my peace partner, my cool confidant, my hip hobnobber and my Manchester Musketeer, Holly Ditto, for accompanying me all around Manchester! You fit in perfectly!