First-time visitors to the Carillon neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, often register surprise when discovering the tucked-away community located immediately west of William Byrd Park. “This is not a neighborhood you bump into accidentally,” points out longtime resident Mary Ellen Connell. “It’s a destination…. It’s quiet and beautiful.”
The area takes its name from the landmark Carillon—the park’s looming bell tower built generations earlier as a World War I memorial. Exploration along the tree-lined streets reveals a more extensive neighborhood than initially meets the eye -- 427 residences of various ages and styles, an elementary school, and two churches. The entire Carillon neighborhood is encompassed by physical boundaries: Byrd Park to the east, the James River to the south, the Powhite Parkway to the west, and the I-195/SR-195 Expressway to the north. While less than three miles from Richmond’s urban center, the community preserves a suburban atmosphere, reinforced by proximity to the city’s largest green space, with its woods, lakes, and walking trails.
This seemingly idyllic setting is enjoyed by residents of diverse backgrounds, representing different races and ethnicities, ages, socioeconomic standing, sexual orientation, religions, and political beliefs. Moreover, this established community has a tradition of multi-generational residency with some families boasting up to four generations of homeownership within its boundaries.
The Carillon neighborhood also retains a rich history. One of its most compelling chapters is the 1968 foundation of the Carillon Civic Association (CCA), and its subsequent record of civic leadership and philanthropy. Forged during a turbulent era of racial unrest and rapidly shifting social and political circumstances, this coalition of white and black neighbors embarked on a bold effort to nurture integration. Today, when surveyed against the wider arc of time, one can only wonder at the fact that the residents made a stand for housing equality on land once owned by two prominent slaveholders (and that, in the present era in 2012, when an estimated 15,000 people assembled on the same grounds to welcome the nation’s first African American President of the United States).
To showcase its mission and spirit, the CCA began Arts in the Park in 1972. An award-winning outdoor fair held annually the first weekend in May, Arts in the Park now hosts approximately 400 artists and artisans from all over the United States. Proceeds of the event support neighborhood beautification, the city park system, public library, and school system, as well as numerous local charities and nonprofit organizations.For more information, please click here.
The Carillon neighborhood provides so many amenities for history bluffs, outdoorsman and just about anyone looking to explore what this amazing community has to offer:
Maymont, located toward the east of the Carillon, is a special place where the man-made elegance of art and architecture is surrounded by the natural beauty of plants, animals, water and paths. Whether strolling through the gardens, touring the mansion, watching river otters play, petting a goat or picnicking on the lawn, Maymont is a gift of 100 acres given for all to enjoy. For more information, please click here.
Byrd Park 287-acre park in Richmond's Near West End is one of the city's most popular. Spread along both sides of The Boulevard and Blanton Avenue starting at the Columbus Statue you will find Fountain Lake, a self-lighted tennis complex for anytime play, and two softball fields (home to Richmond Little League). Sunbathing and pedal boat rides at Fountain Lake are popular in the summer, and a full-service concession building at the lakes offers snacks, lunch, restrooms and free Wi-Fi during the summer season. It also holds the Vita Course, which is one of the last remaining footpath courses with exercise equipment in the U.S. For more information about the park and its unique offerings, please click here.
Dogwood Dell is a 2,400 seat amphitheatre owned and operated by the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Facilities and located in Byrd Park. It hosts the Festival of Arts each summer. It provides a great venue for concerts, theatre and family get-togethers. For more information on the Dell and the Festival, please click here.
The Carillon Tower, at the center of it all, is both a tower and a large scale musical instrument, one of a class of instruments which are the largest on earth. This 240-foot Georgian 56-bell tower is a memorial to Virginians who died fighting in World War I. For more information about the tower, please click here.