The Neighborhood at a Glance
Diamond Hill lies to the south and west of Downtown with boundaries generally defined by steep terrain and ravines. Grace Street (former Campbell County Turnpike) and Washington Street are two major thoroughfares. First appearing the 1820s, the naming of Diamond Hill is still a mystery. Theories include that the hill was named for wealthy residents, triangular shaped lots, or sparkly minerals in the soil.
A Deep Divide
Outside of the City limits until 1870, the neighborhood had a number of early homes but was somewhat isolated by Horseford Creek and a deep ravine between Washington and 12th Streets. In the 1850s, the women of Diamond Hill asked City Council to build a bridge over the ravine. City Council refused but the women raised the funds and built their own footbridge. In the 1870s, the ravine was filled in and the creek piped underground.
With examples of Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Italianate, and other architectural styles, Diamond Hill has some of the most interesting homes in Lynchburg. Prominent residents have included business owners such as the Kinnear, Guggenheimer, Gannaway, and Moore families. The Blackford family, many of whom were soldiers and authors, also had a home on Diamond Hill, visited by General Robert E. Lee in 1868
Historic buildings on Diamond Hill include the Grace Street Fire Station, ca. 1873 and Diamond Hill Baptist Church, ca. 1888. The church is one of the oldest African American churches in the city. Dr. Virgil Woods was pastor of Diamond Hill from 1958-1963 and the church was a focal point for local civil rights activities. Dr. Wood was a friend and colleague of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who visited him at the church in 1962 when he spoke in Lynchburg.
Two hospitals once stood along Grace Street. The former Marshall Lodge Hospital opened in 1886 and closed in 1971. In 1931 the Guggenheimer family home became Guggenheimer Memorial Hospital, today a rehabilitation facility.