Old Towne Petersburg
The establishment of Fort Henry at the Falls of the Appomattox in 1645 expanded the English settlement that began in the previous decade south of the Appomattox River. The founding fathers of Petersburg, Abraham Wood and Peter Jones, were military and trading leaders at the Fort Henry complex during the 17th century. At least four exploratory parties departed and returned to Fort Henry between 1650 and 1674 after documenting the geography and Indian tribes to the south and southwest of this frontier outpost. William Byrd II laid out the foundation and named the city of Petersburg (and Richmond) in 1733.
Old Towne was the core of what became by the mid-19th century a leading manufacturing and transportation center in Virginia and the South. It still possesses a rich diversity of historical residential, commercial, and industrial architecture including structures in late Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, and Colonial/Georgian Revival styles. “Virtually every late 18th- and early 19th-century style of architecture popular in the United States is represented in the district.”
Old Towne today is an inviting culinary and shopping destination, with almost all restaurants and shops in historic structures. Its numerous individually owned and quality restaurants feature Italian, Greek, International, a Tea Room, a British pub, Southern soul and comfort food, coffeehouses, American, deli sandwiches, BBQ, German, and Sushi Fusion dining options. It also boasts approximately a dozen antique shops, primarily on West Old and North Sycamore Streets but also on North Market, Bollingbrook, and West Bank Streets.
Among the most historic sites in Old Towne are the Peter Jones Trading Station ; the Siege Museum; the Farmer’s Bank; St. Paul’s Church; the Farmer’s Market; the South Side Depot; the Centre Hill Mansion; and the Petersburg Hustings Courthouse.
Old Towne’s greatest asset is its variety and quantity of historic buildings. Steven Spielberg recognized this fact and in December 2011, he filmed much of the award-winning movie “Lincoln” in Old Towne Petersburg. In fact, President Lincoln spent three of the last four weeks of his life in City Point (Hopewell), Prince George County, Dinwiddie County, Richmond, and Petersburg. On April 3, 1865 the President met with Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant at the Thomas Wallace House, located at 204 South Market Street. Upon his return to Washington, President Lincoln had one week left to live.
The adaptive reuse of many industrial and commercial buildings, primarily on North Sycamore Street, and the restoration of homes on Grove Avenue and High Street have contributed to the revitalization throughout Old Towne. A large number of loft-style apartments have been built over the last few years in Old Towne, and more store owners are reverting back to the historical concept of living above their retail store. For over ten years on the second Friday night of each month, Old Towne comes alive with its celebration of Friday for the Arts! and in 2008 an Arts & Culture District was designated throughout Old Towne. There are multiple arts venues, live music inside and outside, and the shops and restaurants stay open until 10 pm; many of the activities are free and open to the public. For a listing of Arts & Culture activities on-going in Old Towne, visit www.southsidevirginiaarts.org. Old Towne Petersburg is a charming place that has drawn many to live in historic Petersburg and many more to visit to dine, shop, enjoy its cultural events, admire its historic architecture, and visit its many historic sites. It is “Where Commerce Began.” Don’t take our word for it -- you must see it for yourself!