by Cesca Janece Waterfield
On the heights above Shockoe Valley, a treasure awaits. Dating to the 19th century, Highland Park has prevailed over economic hardship and racial intolerance to offer its past and promise. On Aug. 8, the Valentine History Center will present a cost-free tour that is open to everyone and led by an historian who’s actively researching this community on the rise.
Although there remains some quibbling as to what officially marks Highland Park’s boundaries, the neighborhood is generally accepted as the area within 1st Ave. and 5th St. up to Pulaski St. on the north and to 5th St. on the east. On Saturday’s tour, led by Center Director Bill Martin, walkers will visit Gabriel Prosser Park, stop in at personal residences and retailers, and break for coffee at Fire Station 15, now a restaurant. Residents and staff from Boaz & Ruth will join walkers when the tour culminates with refreshments and shopping. How does Bill uncover the history of one of the city’s most interesting communities?
“Just digging in the archives here,” the historian answers. “I look at individual addresses and look at the changing retail mix.” While Bill’s research is meticulous, the Director’s Tour will offer a general overview of the neighborhood. “This is such an attractive community,” he says. “It’s these wide, tree-lined streets, with a large collection of Queen Anne houses. It’s a beautiful neighborhood.”