RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - With picks and trowels, archeologists are unearthing a dubious chapter in Richmond history. A parking lot just north of Main Street Station in Shockoe is the site of the Lumpkin's Slave Jail, a place some 300,000 slaves, knew as "the devil's half acre." This site will eventually become a park but many in Richmond think it could be so much more.
"We know that this area is a very historical site," said State Del. Delores McQuinn.
McQuinn's grandfather, the son of slaves, watched a plantation owner burn his family records right before his eyes after he had asked to see them. Now the chair of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission - today before the city council's land-use committee, she outlined her grand vision for the site.
"A slavery museum, a genealogy center, and because of the Lumpkin Jail excavation we wanted to focus on that - and make sure it's exposed with a pavilion, so people will see the complex of Lumpkin's Jail," McQuinn said.
Architectural renderings for the National Slavery Museum show it's a grand complex with an equally imposing price tag: somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars. The same plot of ground was once proposed as the site for a new baseball stadium, but according to McQuinn - utilizing this hallowed piece of ground for anything other than a museum would be a disservice to Richmond.
"What this does is to focus on the historical significance of it and try to develop and nurture that story - rather than import something else in that area," said McQuinn.
This is just the preliminary stage of this project. A board of directors has yet to be appointed and even if approved, the museum is likely at least 10 years away.