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Hill of Destiny in Richmond

Centuries of History in Church Hill

Named after a 21,000-foot inactive volcano in Ecuador, Chimborazo Hill has a dramatic, if not explosive, history of racial conflict that spans more than two centuries.

In 1656, it was the suspected site of the Battle of Bloody Run, which pitted English colonists and the Pamunkeys against the Rickohockan, a tribe which lived near the headwaters of the James River.

But this Richmond hill is most famously known as the site of the largest Confederate Civil War hospital. The first pavilion-style medical facility in the United States, this hospital treated approximately 78,000 patients in about 150 buildings, and included wards, a soap house, a carpenter shop, a smithy, ice houses, a chapel, stables, bakeries, and a bath house.

When the war ended, the site housed a Freedmen’s School, which educated hundreds of newly freed slaves. Even more Freedmen – about 1,500 emancipated individuals – took up residence in the abandoned wooden hospital buildings. When tensions between the blacks in the Freedmen camp and neighboring whites escalated in 1874, Richmond purchased the land from Henrico County to clear it of its inhabitants. After annexation, Chimborazo Hill became a city park, which remains today. Subsequently, a national weather station was built on the land in 1909, and the National Park Service acquired a portion of the park in 1959.

Photos: Library of Congress, The Valentine

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