THE HISTORY CLASS will
be devoted to the small towns and neighborhoods we grew
up in -- the origins, the people, the urban legends
--- things that were considered normal then, but that
seem a bit weird now.
Please send us stories from your town or neighborhood
or post them in the Local
History section of the Message
So, jump into the Wayback Machine with the spirit of
Guv Haynes ---- and Pay attention,
there might be a Pop Quiz!
TODAY'S LESSON --- the town of Highland
New England developer
envisioned a promised land
Temple -- later became HS Post Office
Highland Springs, an unincorporated community
east of Richmond, Virginia, is a part of
Henrico County. Henrico County is one of
the original eight shires of Virginia, which
had its origin in 1634. At the beginning,
the county stretched from what is now Charles
City County to west of the mountains. Nine
counties, a part of a tenth and a city were
cut from the original size.
Prior to 1890 the part of Henrico County
which is now Highland Springs was a rural
area. It was an area of small farms that
had been carved from plantations that existed
before the Civil War. A winding country
road bisected the area.
It's said that New England real estate
developer Edmund Sewell Read visited Europe,
California and Florida in the 1880s trying
to find a warmer and more healthful climate
for his ailing wife.
Highland Springs Schoolhouse -- 1
He finally found what he was looking for
a few miles east of Richmond. This place,
his surveyors told him, was the highest
ground between Richmond and Atlantic Ocean,
Sweet water oozed from at least nine springs.
Before the arrival of Mr. Read in 1890,
there were only a few scattered farms in
He bought 1,000 acres on the north side
of Nine Mile Road in 1891, and a few years
later another 1,000 acres on the south side
of Nine Mile Road. He laid the land out
in lots and named the streets alphabetically
for trees, shrubs, and flowers: Ash, Beech,
Cedar, Daisy, Elm, Fern, etc. It may be
an exaggeration to call them streets at
that time, because this was before the arrival
of automobiles. Mr. Read was apparently
a man who looked to the future.
The land was high ground and well watered
by springs. He named the place Highland
Lots were advertised for sale for $50
to $300. A buyer could put $10 to $20 down
and pay $5 to $10 monthly. Read's company
would lend money for building. If you decided
to stay you'd be eligible for a free pass
for a year on the suburban railroad.
That small railroad running from Richmond
to Seven Pines was Highland Springs' early
lifeline. By 1893, there were 50 houses,
a church, library, school, firehouse and
Highland Springs School -- 1906
There were no saloons and no resident
blacks in Highland Springs because, according
to a 1965 essay by Charles Chappell, neither
was allowed to reside in the new village.
The survival of the town got a boost from
the 1894 sale of the commuter rail line
to the Richmond Railway and Electric Company.
The new company introduced the electric
streetcar to Highland Springs in that year.
It ran from Seven Pines to 29th and P Streets
in Richmond. Its rush-hour fare was 2 1/2
cents, 4 1/2 cents at other times.
The cars ran about once every hour and
made stops every block or so while going
through Highland Springs. The influence
of the streetcars made such an impact on
the life of the village that the street
names were seldom used. You identified your
street by its streetcar stop number.
School Cadet Corps -- 1921
By 1895, the town had its own newspaper,
the Highland Springs Journal. Front-page
advertisements touted the virtues of the
Churches and civic organizations began
to take root in the late 19th and early
20th centuries. In 1905, the one-room schoolhouse
sheltered 27 students in grades 1 through
Supported by the Women's Study Club for
Right Living of Highland Springs, scout
troops started in 1913. The two Girl Scout
troops were the first in the state of Virginia.
Commuters by automobile or horse-drawn
wagon still had to suffer the vagaries of
the Nine Mile Road, which was ankle deep
in dust in dry weather and 4 inches deep
in mud in wet. It was paved in 1923. Many
of the side streets were tarred shortly
Springs Fire Department -- 1941
Residents used well water until, in 1938-39,
water and sewerage systems were introduced.
Highland Springs resident and Henrico County
Supervisor Dr. Horace Hicks (1938-1948)
claims those improvements as well as sidewalks,
curbs and gutters and streetlights as part
of his legacy.
Some residents, no doubt, were sorry to
see the streetcars replaced by buses in
1933. The electric cars were part of town
life for 39 years.
The village has grown some since Read
bought his first 1,000 acres.
the Fire -- HS Elementary, 1965
Residents accept Highland Springs' unofficial
borders as extending from A.P. Hill Street
on the west to Airport Drive on the east.
The northern boundary is the Chickahominy
River. The railroad tracks establish the
Edmund Sewell Read moved to Washington
in 1918, leaving his two sons to continue
his business and civic leadership. The founder
of Highland Springs died in 1937. He was
80 years old.
- article courtesy of Don Pierce
waters are appreciated by all"
Highland Springs, the Model Town Site, Health
Resort and Pleasant Suburb of Richmond on the
Seven Pines Railway ... has, notwithstanding the
hard times, made a steady and constant gain from
the first. The pure air and health giving waters
are appreciated by all who resort to this favored
The delightful climate, as compared with that
of the Northern sections of the country has attracted
settlers from many States, so that the population
is about equally divided between North and South.
The remarkable improvement in health by some who
have settled here is a standing recommendation,
and health-seekers as well as home seekers, from
all quarters, should look to the merits of this
Businessmen of Richmond can secure homes here
and enjoy all the advantages of the country and
attend to their business as well, on account of
the easy and pleasant access to the city by hourly
Good inducements are offered to desirable home-seekers
by the owner and manager who settled here for
a permanent home after searching the entire country
for the most desirable place to locate; but no
crazy "boom" is desired and no wildcat
speculation is tolerated. For information apply
to our address:
E.S.Read, Highland Springs, Henrico County, Virginia
- Advertisement from the Highland
Springs Journal; Aug. 12, 1899
for the Waters...
best water in the universe" gave Highland
Springs its name
Long ago, a New York doctor called
the water from Bonanza Spring "one of the
most valuable therapeutic agents known among the
natural remedial solvent waters in the world."
Bonanza Spring, or Tucker Spring
as it became known later on, put the Springs in
Highland Springs and was one of the main reasons
the village is where it is.
There were once nine springs in
Highland Springs, most located a half-mile or
so west of the intersection of Washington Street
and Airport Road. They are all pretty much dried
up now, according to Allen Frise, who has located
remnants of the Bonanza or Tucker Spring a few
steps south of Washington Street.
The wagon road leading to the spring
and a few bricks are all that remains of what
used to be one of the most popular spots in Highland
Springs. Longtime residents remember church and
school picnics at the springs in the 1920s and
'30s. Others recall the place being the number
one lovers' lane in the area.
And the water?
A New York doctor, Frederick A.
Davis, said it was very helpful " in the
process of cleansing and otherwise expelling obstructions
such as uric acid and other poisonous waste matter
in the circulatory system."
Others put it more simply.
"We had the best water in
the universe, it was so cold, you didn't need
ice," longtime Highland Springs resident
Anna Mae Kidd said.