Oregon Hill is a historically working class neighborhood in Richmond. Oregon Hill overlooks the James River and Belle Isle, and provides access to Hollywood Cemetery.
Oregon Hill was established during the industrial expansion during Reconstruction following the American Civil War. Oregon Hill was populated by the workers from the Tredegar Iron Works and Albemarle Paper Company. It is so named because at the time of its settlement, it was very far west of the city's downtown. It was quipped that employees moving there to be close to their workplace might as well be moving westward to Oregon.
Oregon Hill Today
Oregon Hill is currently bordered by Cary Street to the north, Belvidere Street to the east, Oregon Hill Parkway to the south, and by the Hollywood cemetery and Linden St. to the west. It is located only a few blocks south of Virginia Commonwealth University. With generally low-rent dwellings, it is a popular place for students to rent houses or apartments. It is also known as a white working class enclave. Recently, there has been much development throughout Oregon Hill. This development has occurred in several forms. Infill projects have erected houses in lots that were previously vacant due to fires or other demolition. Many old buildings have either been torn down and replaced with townhouses, or renovated. As of 2007, a new townhouse complex called "The Overlook" has been mostly completed and inhabited on the blocks overlooking the James River. Up until the 1990's, original housing stock stood on and was inhabited in this area. It was demolished and the land stood vacant after 1997, during which time it was used as a riverside park overlooking the James. The complete demolition of all the houses on these 3 blocks was a source of bitter contention between the neighborhood and the Ethyl Corporation, which owned the land. Some original houses still look over the river to the west of this development. Due to the major development, and the accompanying rise in property taxes and general cost of living, many families who have lived in Oregon Hill for generations are selling their homes or finding their rents unaffordable.
Oregon Hill in Popular Culture
In 1992, the country music/rock and roll band Cowboy Junkies released a song titled Oregon Hill, which features a description of the neighborhood. Avail, a punk/hardcore band based out of Richmond, often talks of Oregon Hill. Their lead singer Tim Barry lives in Oregon Hill.