We’re happy to have you in the River City! Here’s a guide to RVA traditions that will turn you into a local in no time.
Photo by: Liam Richardson
It’s that time of year–the time when we welcome young, fresh faces to our urban (and suburban, if you’re a Spider) landscape! We’re thrilled to have you and we hope that you consider Richmond to be your new home.
To help you settle in, here’s a handy guide for a lot of “Richmondisms” that will make you feel like a local in no time!
6th Street Marketplace
The term “6th Street Marketplace,” is a term used in Richmond since the 18th century. The original 6th Street was constructed as a way to let the very rich pass directly over the seedier areas of town. Think: old-timey expressway. It was built on a wooden structure, stretching two full miles on a diagonal slant across the city. Workers were almost finished when they ran out of nails, and the project came to a halt (the Revolutionary War was currently claiming all the iron for weapons). For months, the city’s poor gathered under the unfinished structure to hang out and exchange goods in a busy market. Sadly, 6th Street was finally torn down that winter and used for firewood. The rich never got their expressway, and they were forced to commingle with the peasants. As a result, we use “6th Street Marketplace” to refer to any type of failure of any possible size or scope.
Try it in a sentence! Example: “Oh no! Smoothie King forgot my protein powder again, Maddie! That’s a real 6th Street Marketplace. Thanks for ruining my day for like the third time, SK.”
Our crosswalks have an interesting story. These essentially meaningless stripes of white paint on black asphalt are repainted every year out of respect for tradition. Decades ago, when traffic didn’t yield meekly at the very sight of a longboard or a fixed-gear bike, people crossed the road on this painted path using a system of lights and signals designed for their safety and that of motorists. Officially proclaimed “optional” by Mayor Pfennig Hanningbottom in 1956, we still give props to this adorable–if wholly unnecessary–idea.
Another RVA Glossary Term for you! You might hear the odd-sounding word “Ukrop’s” when you’re talking to some of Richmond’s older folk. If you ever meet anyone who was alive in the mid-2000s and still has all their wits about them, they may tell you about a legendary shopkeeper. His beloved family operation refused to turn a profit and, as a result, eventually had to sell out to an evil corporate empire. Now, grocery stores have gone the way of the dodo, but some Richmonders with long memories now use “Ukropian” to describe anything that we believed we could not live without but whose absence actually didn’t impact our lives a whole lot.
Use it in conversation with a local and watch them smile! Example: “I was out of RamBucks and I thought I would die without late-night Waffle House hash browns, but it turns out it was just a Ukropian pipe dream.”
It’s a myth.
Richmond is famous for closing at the first sign of snow–which is great for sledding enthusiasts but bad for those who gotta get their crossfit in. When the snow plows do come around, make sure you turn your back. Snow plows are notoriously shy and do not like to be looked at. Pro tip: leave a snack by the curb for your snow plow, and you’ll wake up with your car dug out of its parking space!
Your third RVA Glossary Term! “Ballpark.” In the late 19th century, baseball fever hit Richmond hard–complete with running sores, hallucinations, and a high temperature. It wasn’t pretty. The hospitals were pressed for space, so city officials decreed the area’s sporting greens to be official sick bays. Records were destroyed in a flood several years later, so no one is quite sure how many patients were treated on the grounds of what is now City Stadium, the Diamond, the Byrd Park tennis courts, and the former elite mini-golf green on Kanawha Plaza. That’s why you’ll probably hear a Richmonder say “ballpark” when they talk about an estimated number. This is not to be confused with another Richmond phrase, “baseball stadium,” which just means “annoying neverending conflict.” Origin unknown.
You can wow any local by using both in a sentence. “I’m so tired of my two roommates fighting over whether or not to play 5 Seconds of Summer or Little Mix in our dorm room. I’ve heard them both complain about this particular baseball stadium about 5,000 times–but that’s just a ballpark estimate.”
Northside is not a myth, but it is reserved for young families. You can apply for a visiting pass, but the City hasn’t granted one since 1991. Never hurts to try!
There is definitely and absolutely a pool on top of your tallest campus building that is reserved for seniors. Just kidding! That was a joke people used to haze high school freshmen in the days before there were actually pools on the roofs of every high school that isn’t a Richmond Public School.
Church Hill Tunnel
You might get a suggestion from a local to go investigate the Church Hill tunnel. We won’t spoil that one for you–it’s a real Richmond rite of passage. :)