Why is it called the Blues Armory?

One of the most exciting aspects of the Navy Hill development is the rehabilitation and repurposing of the historic Blues Armory into a food market, music and entertainment hall, and event space.

 The Blues Armory. It currently sits empty and is attached to the remnants of Sixth Street Marketplace. That would all change under the proposal.

The Blues Armory. It currently sits empty and is attached to the remnants of Sixth Street Marketplace. That would all change under the proposal.

Build in 1910, the brick, castle-like building at Sixth and Marshall streets was home to the Richmond Light Infantry Blues, a local militia formed in 1789 that was called to service in times of crisis. Later, the Armory was used as an outdoor produce market. Many Richmonders may remember dining in first-floor food court, which was popular during the heyday of the Sixth Street Marketplace - the remnants of which are still attached, and would come down if the development moves forward.

About the Blues

The Blues, according to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, were so named for their distinctive blue and white uniforms, and were formally commissioned by the Commonwealth of Virginia on May 10, 1793.

The Blues served in the Civil War and were chartered as in independent company in 1877. They later served in the Spanish-American War, were assigned as the horse battalion in World War I, and served as infantry in World War II and the Korean War. In the 1960s, the Blues were merged into the Virginia Army National Guard; one of the group’s last official functions was participating in the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy. The unit was deactivated in 1996. 

Richmond is steeped in history, and the unfortunate reality is that many corners of our city have ties to slavery. So it is important, as we move forward on the potential restoration of the Blues Armory, that we acknowledge the role the Richmond Light Infantry Blues played during the enslavement of African-Americans. Most notably, the Blues were first called to service in the summer of 1800, when Richmond blacksmith Gabriel Prosser led a slave rebellion with the goal of seizing the city, killing the whites, and establishing a new society. Rains delayed the uprising and, cued into the revolt, the Governor ordered the Blues to defend the city. Prosser and 25 others were caught, tried, and later executed. Three decades later, the militia also suppressed the Nat Turner slave rebellion. 

The Virginia Museum notes that the Blues also were a social organization, and participated in parades and celebrations “and in the reception of every distinguished visitor to the city of Richmond.” Other important events on the company’s social calendar included the anniversary of its founding every May 10, along with George Washington’s birthday and Christmas.

Contact us if you have information or are affiliated to the Blues

Contact us if you are interested in history of this building, the military group, or if you are a descendent of the individuals impacted by the militia’s actions in the early 19th century. We’d like to talk to you and learn more. Email us today.

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The proposal for the Blues Armory includes:

  • First floor: 20,000-square-foot food market with culinary education space

  • Second floor: Music and entertainment club

  • Third floor: Banquet room/event space, with seating for 1,000 and attached to a new hotel

In addition, the remnants of the Sixth Street Marketplace’s “Crystal Palace” will be demolished. The cost is estimated at $10 million, and financed through bonds.

Jeff Kelley