Petersburg's location on the Appomattox River at the fall line (head-of-navigation of U.S. East Coast rivers) caused the city to become a strategic place for transportation and commercial activities during the early growth of the Colony of Virginia. Beginning in the 1830's, the city became a major transfer point for both north-south and east-west railroads, including the Petersburg Railroad (a predecessor to the CSX Transportation System) and the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The last major line was completed in 1858 to the east, with the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, which gave access to an ocean port. Built in 1856 by enslaved laborers, the South Side Railroad Depot is one of the few remaining antebellum depots in the south.
After the Civil War, this two-story building served as the office for former Confederate General William Mahone (1826-1895) and also as the state headquarters for Mahone's radical Republican Readjuster Party (named for their position regarding Virginia's troublesome post-War public debt issues). The Readjuster Party included a coalition of blacks, Republicans, and Conservative Democrats. In the early 1880's, the party achieved many progressive reforms, including the establishment of Virginia State University (an historic black university) and Central State Hospital (an insane asylum). By the late 1880's, the Readjusters' political power was diminished by a reactionary conservative movement.
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Geographical and Contact Information
At corner of Rock and River Streets