After being named an “All American City” in 1958, Petersburg prospered in retail until the early 1980s. But structural economic changes in the country and the state, as well as post-war national highway construction, caused a decline in jobs in this once-thriving city. Some companies left the city, while others moved south. Today, a small number of retail businesses remain in Petersburg. But there are other ways to enjoy the charm of Petersburg.
History buffs will appreciate the historic significance of the city. The Pamplin Historical Park recreates the life of a soldier during the American Civil War. It includes a recreated Military Encampment, the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, and Tudor Hall. It’s well worth the visit if you’re in the area. Petersburg Virginia has a variety of attractions to appeal to all tastes and budgets. No matter what your reason for visiting Petersburg, you’ll love every moment of your stay.
History buffs can visit the city’s historic buildings and cemeteries. Fort Henry was built on the site in 1644 after an uprising led by Opechancanough. The Fort also served as a trading post with Native American tribes. Peter Jones later bought the Fort and renamed the town after himself. In 1733, George Washington recognized the city’s geographic position at the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers. Petersburg would also need to compete with Richmond for the same trade, and the Dismal Swamp Canal would redirect the trade to Portsmouth.
After Myers and Samuel settled in Petersburg, it continued to attract Jewish merchants. These merchants shared a German heritage. In the 1820s, Petersburg became a bustling port city, supplying cheap goods across the Atlantic. While the city grew in size, Jewish businesses continued to be central to economic activity. Many Jewish residents worked in the manufacturing sector as well as retailing dry goods and supplies. In this way, they were vital to the growth of Petersburg.
In the late nineteenth century, Jews in Petersburg formed the Rodof Sholom congregation. In 1908, there were 37 members of the congregation, representing nineteen different families. Many Jewish immigrants had followed their relatives to Petersburg, and they formed a large, extended family network. In 1915, they began to construct the first synagogue, which was located on North Market Street. It later became the site of the Jewish Historical Society of Petersburg.
After the Siege of Petersburg Virginia, the Union Army had successfully advanced its left flank, gaining access to the Southside Railroad and Weldon, North Carolina. They then lost their lifelines and left Petersburg for good. By the time Lee arrived, however, the Confederate Army had abandoned its last hope for a victory. However, it was not long before Lee arrived and the siege of Petersburg ended. The city grew and prospered from the war.
The Civil Rights Movement in Petersburg gained its strength in the early 1950s, as major black churches in the city formed a moral center for the movement. The pastor of the Gillfield Baptist Church, Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, became a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference had become a force in movement leadership in the South, and his work in Petersburg was influential in this regard.