During the Civil War, the city of Petersburg, about 25 miles south of Richmond, was besieged by General Grant's army for nine long months beginning in June 1864. When Federal troops finally succeeded in cutting off Confederate supply lines here, Richmond fell within days.
We haven't spent enough time there to render a judgment, but last night Sycamore Street, in the heart of downtown Petersburg, felt abandoned, as if the residents had been evacuated sometime in the 1950s (though the real economic decline didn't begin in earnest until the 1980s, it seems) and most had never returned. There's evidence everywhere, however, of the city's former glory — in the grand (though peeling) façade of the courthouse, built between 1838 and 1840. —EHP