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A City of Seven Hills-Federal Hill

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Lynchburg’s Federal Hill is the smallest of the cities seven hills.  Bounded by steep hills near 12th Street and a valley near 8th and Madison Streets it was located outside of the original city limits.  Federal Hill could be called Lynchburg’s first suburbs as homes were built before 1819, when it became part of the town.

Some of the first homes were built by Lynchburg merchants and civic leaders.  These homes were built in Federal Hill as it’s location provided easy access to the downtown area and to the court house and city buildings.  Most of the homes built on Federal Hill were brick, in the Federal-style featuring symmetry and fine details.

Lynchburg High School, built in 1899, stands on Federal Street.  It later became the Frank Roane Elementary School.  Today this very large, buff brick building has been converted into apartments.

A City of Seven Hills-Franklin Hill

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Franklin Hill is located between Diamond Hill and White Rock Hill.  Bound by the Rt 29 Expressway, the James River, Florida Avenue and Fishing Creek this hill encompasses very rough terrain.  Lots on Franklin Hill were sold starting in 1820.  Lots weren’t developed until the early 1900’s due to the terrain and the difficulty building on such steep hillsides and ravines.  Many of the streets that run through this hill were named after trees, Pine, Walnut, Maple, Hazel, Poplar and Gum.  Few, if any, of the original houses built on Franklin Hill exist today.

The most well-known landmark of Franklin Hill is Presbyterian Cemetery, founded in 1824.  Filled with intricate and artistic tombstones and grave markers some of Lynchburg’s most famous residents are buried here.  See Blog Post dated April 17, 2018.


A City of Seven Hills-Chestnut Hill

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Chestnut Hill was the name of the first house built in Lynchburg, in 1752, by Charles Lynch.  The home was built on a bluff overlooking the James River near today’s Concord Turnpike.  It was probably named for the American chestnut trees that grew in abundance in Central Virginia until a blight killed them in the early 20th century.  Today the name Chestnut Hill is associated with the western end of Fort Avenue where churches, a city street and businesses share the same name.  The original Quaker Church, attended by Charles Lynch, is also located in this part of Lynchburg.

A City of Seven Hills-Garland Hill

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Today’s Garland Hill was originally from the farm of William Lynch, Sr., son of John Lynch who founded Lynchburg.  Blackwater Creek forms the boundary for much of the neighborhood, anlong with 5th Street and Old City Cemetery.  The oldest house, still in it’s original location in the city, is at 619 1st Street.  It was built by the Lynch family in 1787.

Lots were originally sold in 1845.  A number of substantial homes were built between 1845 and 1860.  By the mid-19th century so many members of the Garland family were living in the neighborhood that the hill became known as Garland Hill.

More elaborate homes were built along Madison and Harrison Streets after 1865.  At the corner of 5th and Madison Streets once stood the Beggers School.  It served as an elementary school starting in 1881 until 1966.

A City of Seven Hills-Diamond Hill

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Continuing our series on “the hills” of Lynchburg, VA this month we are discussing Diamond Hill.  Diamond Hill is known as Lynchburg’s third “hill.”

Lying south and west of downtown it’s boundaries are defined by steep terrain and ravines.  First appearing in city records in 1820 the name Diamond Hill is a mystery.  It has been suggested that the name came due to the wealthy residents who built homes here, the triangular shaped lots or perhaps the sparkly minerals found in the soil.

Diamond Hill has some of the most interesting homes in Lynchburg.  Unlike in other “hills,” the homes found in the core of the Diamond Hill are almost all where the wealthy lived.  There are few vernacular homes where the staff workers or everyday employees may have lived, as in other neighborhoods.  Home styles here include Gothic Revival, Queen Anne and Italianate.

Two historic buildings on Diamond Hill include the Grace Street Fire Station, ca. 1883 and the Diamond Hill Baptist Church, ca. 1888.  Two hospitals once stood along Grace Street.  The former Marshall Lodge Hospital opened in 1886.  It closed in 1976.  In 1931 the Guggenheimer family home became the Guggenheimer Memorial Hospital.  Today it is a rehab facility.

Lynchburg, Virginia–A City of Seven Hills

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Lynchburg, Virginia is commonly known as the City of Seven Hills.  Due to the prominence of seven “major” hills throughout the region the city was divided into seven hills:  College Hill, Daniel’s Hill, Diamond Hill, Federal Hill, Franklin Hill, Garland Hill and White Rock Hill.  These hills surround the original downtown of Lynchburg.  For the next few months I will be writing about the history and significance of these hills as they relate to Lynchburg’s prominence in early Virginia and to their impact on Lynchburg today.

This month’s blog will begin with Court House Hill.  Court House Hill was the original downtown area that was chartered by John Lynch in 1786.  Court House Hill includes Commerce Street and Church Streets.  It is bounded on the east by 12th Street and on the west by 5th Street.  Originally it contained 45 acres.  Even though it was the original town of Lynchburg, today we are including it as a “hill.”

The Court House (today’s Lynchburg Museum) was completed in 1813.  Court House Hill saw a number of early homes completed in 1826 and 1827.  Most of these houses were built on this hill with front or rear porches, oftentimes two-story, that could overlook the commercial activity below or views of the James River below and the hills of Amherst beyond.  In 1829 an important asset was added to Lynchburg when the town funded a water system that took water from the James River and pumped it to a reservoir at the corner of 7th and Clay Streets.  The wall of the reservoir is still visible today.  By 1830, the town had a population of 4,600 residents and one of the earliest water systems in the country.

In the early 20th century Lynchburg had a surge of new development.  The Academy of Music opened on Main Street.  A new post office, several schools and the neo-classical Lynchburg National Bank (at the corner of 9th and Main Streets) opened.  In 1925 the World War I memorial, Monument Terrace, was completed.  1931 saw the completion of one of the area’s finest examples of Art Deco architecture, the Allied Arts Building on Church Street.