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Rediscovering What We Lost: Hull Street

I know its hard to envision now, but the Hull Street shopping district used to be one of the busiest areas in all of Richmond.

While Hull Street still has considerable vehicle traffic as a commuter corridor, it has lost nearly all its pedestrians who once shopped its high density retail district. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch archives, Hull Street was notorious for traffic jams with shoppers continuously circling its blocks in search of a parking spot. The City worked with business owners in a constant struggle to attempt to find solutions to ease congestion over the course of the 20th Century.

That is until Hull Street collapsed with the flight to the suburbs.

The Richmond-Times Dispatch archive photographs are an incredible reminder of what was lost. Perhaps we can bring it back now that we are rediscovering the benefits of living, working, and playing in a walkable urban setting.

03-16-1955 (cutline): Motorists entering Hull Street shopping area in South Richmond has a little paper work on their hands today. A team of 39 men from the State Highway Department was conducting a “cordon count” in the area. Each motorist driving into the section past any one of 20 intersections was handed a card on which was to be noted the time and place of entry and later the time and place of exit from the general shopping district. It was part of a traffic survey initiated by the Department of Highways several weeks ago at the request of the City Department of Public Safety.
01-10-1955 (cutline): Traffic men begin survey of Hull Street parking problems. Left to rightL Vincent Taylor, G.F. Butcher, Jr., and H.K. Perkins, Jr.
01-30-1961 (cutline): Louis D. Kessler (left) greets Hull St. shopper.
06-07-1959 (cutline): Stores along Hull Street
01-08-1977: Hull Street
In June 1952, trucks loaded with wheat during the harvest season had a long wait – including along the Mayo Bridge – to reach the Cargill Inc. grain elevator at First and Hull streets in South Richmond. About 250 trucks delivered on this day alone, and as many as 85 were lined up at one time. One driver reported waiting eight hours to unload his truck.
This October 1948 image shows Cowardin Avenue at the intersection with Hull Street and Jefferson Davis Highway in South Richmond. In August of that year, 250 businessmen petitioned to have “walk/don’t walk” signals installed at the intersection, which officials found to be the busiest in the city. Instead, seven other steps were recommended to improve safety, including new signs at corners, painted crosswalks and a pedestrian fence.
March 18th, 1959 photograph of an Austin Healy on Hull Street
Benedictine Cadets marching in a 1966 Armed Forces Parade down the 1300 block of Manchester’s Hull Street
Hull Street
04-10-1960 (cutline): View from the Richmond-Petersburg toll road shows Hull St. Looking South; Mayo Bridge in right foreground.
01-08-1977: Hull Street


03-04-1952 (cutline): Long the center of business activity in South Richmond, this photograph reflects activity along Hull st. early in the past decade. Even at that point, parking space was a premium and motorists circled the block looking for a spot.

Photo Credits: Richmond Times-Dispatch (Thank you RTD for archiving Manchester’s and Greater Richmond’s history! If you don’t subscribe to the RTD, think about it. It is only with a strong, local paper that we get great historical records like these.)

36 thoughts on “Rediscovering What We Lost: Hull Street

  1. Amazing photos! I hope that the collective “we” can figure out how to bring retail back to the city, or find good use for the old commercial spots.

  2. When I came to Richmond to live in 1978 I can remember my in-laws taking my husband and I to Black’s furniture store to buy a bedroom suite. And Richmond still had the Tobacco Festival parade that was held on Hull Street.

  3. Business community- there are great opportunities here. Would be a great investment for developers- apartments- retail and restaurants.