The Historic YMCA Building (on Main Street next to the 17th Street Marketplace) was built to house traveling railroad employees. You see, way back then, the area we now call Shockoe Bottom was, at the turn of the century, known as the Red Light District, a seedy, back-alley cesspool of vice.
The railroad employees particularly loved this stopover. But it just wouldn't do for any efficiency-minded railroad company to find its conductors and brakemen passed out behind alley trashcans in the wee hours every morning, so architects were commissioned and bricks slapped together to build a house of good repute to provide more wholesome entertainment and safe lodgings.
Whether the employees actually attended the Sunday-school classes and swing-dance lessons offered in the building is another question, but they crashed there every night until 1971, when Main Street Station ceased operating as a passenger station.
Now the place has been reborn as City Bar & Rotisserie, opened recently by the folks at Havana '59. They're working the history of the place to offer a classy setting for traditional rotisserie-cooked American food and an extensive raw bar that will make you drool. Open for lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner Monday through Saturday. 649-2489.
Also in Shockoe Bottom, this Saturday, is the next Shockoe Tomato down at the Farmer's Market. The annual festival is also very much a tradition, or at least a yearly chance for people to dress up like vegetables and stuff themselves with tomatoes. Shockoe Tomato also offers lots of entertainment, kids activities and food demonstrations. It takes place Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
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