Friday, August 02, 2013

The Collapse of Richmond's Church Hill Tunnel by Walter S. Griggs, Jr.

For those of us who grew up, visited family or attended college in Richmond, the story of the train buried beneath Church Hill is familiar lore, the telling of which was often accompanied by grisly descriptions or spooky sound effects. Going to look for the entrances to the tunnels was, for some, as much a rite of passage as other dangerous activities such as sitting on the train trestle or looking for the West Point Light.

The Collapse of Richmond’s Church Hill Tunnel by Walter S. Griggs, Jr. is a telling of the complete history of the tunnel. The reader learns why it was built and by whom. A sense of impending disaster is felt as the tunnel is built brick by brick and life by life. Like other History Press books The Collapse of Richmond’s Church Hill Tunnel is thoughtfully illustrated. Eminently readable, the story is told in a comfortable narrative style. The reader feels that Dr. Griggs is joining us around the dinner table and spinning a yarn of the tunnel and its collapse. The story begins in post-Civil War Richmond. We read about the machinations of the entrepreneurs, the history of Virginia railroads, and the topography of Church Hill. Almost every page includes an episode or fact that is fresh, interesting or not common knowledge. Although the collapse of the tunnel is treated day by day, the book is not just a recitation of facts. One comes to know individuals, some who are tunnel diggers, some who are investors, some who are Church Hill residents. Their stories are skillfully woven in to the fabric of the tunnel’s building and its 1925 collapse. Dr. Griggs includes four pages of sources in the bibliography for those who are interested in further research.

If you enjoy The Collapse of Richmond's Church Hill Tunnel, check out these titles:
Hidden History of Richmond by Walter S. Griggs, Jr.
Hampton Roads Chronicles : History from the Birthplace of America by Paul Clancy.
Ghosts of Alexandria by Michael Lee Pope.

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