These Southside suburbs form a necklace of distinct neighborhoods along Riverside Drive to the north, Semmes and Forest Hill avenues to the south, and Forest Hill Park in the center. During most of the nineteenth century, granite quarries and rugged woodland characterized the area. This all changed in 1888 when Richmond introduced the world's first successful electric streetcar system. In 1889 the Richmond and Southside Electric Railway Company and the Southside Land and Improvement Company founded the suburb of Woodland Heights and established the Forest Hill streetcar line. The line terminated at Forest Hill Park, which was developed as part of this venture.
The developers of Woodland Heights attempted to lure city dwellers with large lots, fresh spring water, and a clean rural environment, all of which was just a fifteen-minute streetcar ride from downtown. Unfortunately, the economic depression of the 1890s stunted development after it had barely begun. Only a few houses went up during this period. Development slowly returned after the turn of the century. In 1908 Forest Hill Annex was laid out to the west of Forest Hill Park along Forest Hill Avenue. Annexation in 1914 and the resulting improved city services spurred development in these areas.
By shortly after World War I, Woodland Heights and Forest Hill Annex were largely complete. Several real estate companies platted newer subdivisions to the west. The most substantial of these was Westover Hills, planned in 1928. These subdivisions were situated beyond the streetcar line and clearly oriented to automobile commuting. Amenities for the automotive suburbanite included a toll bridge (which in 1928 linked the area to the Byrd Park area on the north side of the river) and the development of Riverside Drive. By 1940, the city of Richmond had linked riverside streets in the various subdivisions into Riverside Drive, a single parkway from Cowardin Avenue on the east to Westover Hills on the west.
If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.
SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.