A year ago we very knowingly decided to buy our first home in Church Hill, Richmond's oldest & most overlooked neighborhood. As you might expect, it's very urban with many young families renovating historic homes a few blocks from Section 8 housing. We're certainly the minority... all of Church Hill & Union Hill has been historically black since the city first began cobbling its streets. We rented in this area for a year before deciding to buy, basically letting us get to know the area/neighbors & figure out whether we were comfortable enough to settle in a place where you just don't leave your doors unlocked. And since moving to Richmond we've always lived inside the city limits, even before we were married. There are noises in the night, particularly in the summertime when kids stay outside later. We have a security system, a dog who barks & are working on getting our concealed weapons permits (that's more for fun though). Just to be wise, I have the non-emergency police number saved in my cell phone to call for suspicious activity. It isn't the neighborhood for everyone, but we love it & look forward to growing our family here.
The house is very old, built somewhere between 1885 & 1910. The reason we don't know the precise year is that Richmond's City Hall burned down in 1910, so all the housing records were destroyed. We have the original wood floors, which are a lovely dark purple-brown (rather than orangey); the stairway banister woodwork is a mix of old & new. Everything else was taken down to the studs in 2008 so we have up-to-date wiring & plumbing, central air & heat, & sheet rock walls rather than plaster. We especially love the huge kitchen, the 10 ft ceilings, & the well established trees in our fenced yard with sod now well rooted. Another fun fact, This Old House recently put Church Hill on it's top 10 list of Best Old House Neighborhoods for 2009! We feel enormously blessed that this is our house now, & that we were able to move in during the stage of pregnancy when I had the most energy.
That said, we feel very strongly that living here means we will serve the community, live responsibly in the urban environment & take measures to prevent gentrification where possible. There is a richness to how this community is blooming. We are here to breathe life into this sleeping giant.