Petersburg, Virginia, was a vibrant industrial town until the late 1970s. However, the decline of the cigarette manufacturing industry and the de-industrialization of railroads led to many jobs being lost. The town also suffered as suburbanization was encouraged following World War II. After the 1960s, middle-class families moved to newer housing in predominantly white suburbs. When the economy expanded, many of these families left Petersburg to move to the Richmond metro area.
The city has a rich history of social activism. The South Side Railroad Depot was home to the office of William Mahone, when his Readjustor Party dominated the politics in Virginia. In the aftermath of the Civil War, many freedmen settled in Petersburg. Freedmen were eventually incorporated into the city, and the Freedmen’s Bureau set up new facilities and a mental health hospital at Howard’s Grove Hospital. In 1868, the city also became a religious center. Saint John’s Episcopal Church was founded here.
The city is located on the eastern seaboard about halfway between New York and Florida. It is 23 miles south of Richmond at the juncture of Interstates 95 and 85. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Petersburg is part of the Richmond-Petersburg Metropolitan Statistical Area. The MSA includes Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and southeastern Chesterfield County. It is a thriving, multicultural city, with a lively bar and restaurant scene. There are several attractions off the beaten path that are worth seeing while you’re here.
The city has invested heavily in the preservation of its historic structures. There are many buildings and landmarks in Petersburg dating back to the 18th, 19th, and early twentieth centuries. Several of these buildings have been restored or renovated by the Historic Petersburg Foundation and the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. Several districts have been recognized as important by these organizations. The town’s cultural district has also been the site of filming for HGTV shows and Southern Living magazine.
The Appamatuck Indians were important to the Powhatan Confederacy. They were led by werance King Coquonosum and his sister Queen Oppussoquionuske. The Appamatuck people were Algonquian speakers and had their town at Rohoic Creek. Eventually, this site developed into what is now Petersburg, Virginia. The CSX and NS railroads both maintain transportation centers in the city.
The fall of Petersburg was a signal to the Union forces that Richmond was vulnerable. It also precipitated Robert E. Lee’s last retreat march. Despite the surrender, Hill, who was one of the Confederate generals, was killed in Petersburg’s trenches on the final day of the Siege. This extended network of fortified entrenchments set the stage for trench warfare, which was extensively used in Europe during World War I. Several of these fortifications remain in Dinwiddie County to this day.
The population of Petersburg, Virginia, is diverse. According to the US Census, there were 27,799 households with children under 18. Twenty-five percent of the population was under the age of 18, and 26.1% of households were headed by a woman without her husband. The rest of the population consisted of individuals. About 11.7% of residents were senior citizens living alone. The median age in the city is 37 years old. The male-to-female ratio was 84.2. This means there are 78.7 males for every hundred females over age 18.