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Ashland, Virginia
Ashland Town Hall
Ashland Town Hall
The Center of the Universe
Location in Hanover County and the state of Virginia
Location in Hanover County and the state of Virginia
Country United States
State Virginia
County Hanover
Founded 1858
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Total 7.23 sq mi (18.72 km2)
 • Land 7.20 sq mi (18.64 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
213 ft (65 m)
 • Total 7,225
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,094.05/sq mi (422.42/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 804
FIPS code 51-03368
GNIS feature ID 1492492

Ashland is a town in Hanover County, Virginia, United States, located 16 miles (26 km) north of Richmond along Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 7,225, up from 6,619 at the 2000 census.

Ashland is named after the Lexington, Kentucky estate of Hanover County native and statesman Henry Clay. It is the only incorporated town in Hanover County. Although comprising only one square mile when originally incorporated in 1858, today Ashland has grown through several annexations to a size of 7.16 square miles (18.5 km2), one of Virginia's larger towns in terms of land area.


The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, initially developed the town in the 1840s as a mineral springs resort with a racetrack. The town was named “Ashland” after native son Henry Clay’s estate in Kentucky and officially incorporated on February 19, 1858. The area had been known as "The Slashes," sometimes translated as "swamp," but which also reflected the small ravines that formed in the sandy clay soil after hard rains.

Confederate troops trained on the former racetrack early in the American Civil War, but the war and its aftermath devastated Ashland. Randolph-Macon College (founded 1830) moved to Ashland in 1868, and began using buildings of the bankrupt hotel as well as building additional structures, so it became a small college town.

The railroad lines rebuilt and the town continued to expand. Even before the war, the railroad began offering monthly passes to Richmond to people buying lots and building houses in Ashland. When tycoon Jay Gould established a streetcar line between Ashland and Richmond in 1908, it became an early streetcar suburb of Richmond. Construction of U.S. Route 1 on the former Washington (or Richmond) Road, and later I-95, further shaped the town character and development.

Ashland, Virginia
Known as "The Center of the Universe."

One of Virginia's oldest churches is just outside Ashland: Slash Church, built as the Upper Church of St. Paul's Parish in 1729 remains a house of worship, though now used by the Disciples of Christ. Ashland itself originally had a Free Church, shared by various Protestant denominations. Several denominations built churches shortly after the Civil War, but many were torn down in modern times. The town's current Episcopal Church is St. James the Less, on the other side of the railway line from Slash Church and whose congregation received monthly clergy visitations in the 1850s, and which in 1958 sold its 1866-consecrated and once-moved building as well as the old rectory (which still remains today, in private ownership) in order to build a larger one on the town's outskirts. The Disciples of Christ also had a historic church on Center Street (built 1900) that was replaced in 1985. Historic churches still within the town's (and historic district's) boundaries include: Ashland Baptist Church (1860, now the Hanover Arts and Activities Center); Shiloh Baptist Church (1866, originally Freedmens Baptist Church), Duncan Memorial Chapel (Methodist, 1879), St. Ann's Catholic Church (built 1892, remodeled 1925) and Ashland Presbyterian Church (1875-1881). Gwathmey Baptist Church (1892) is a mile nearer Richmond and (like the former St. James the Less Church), within 50 feet of the railroad tracks. The town now also has an Eastern Orthodox congregation, St. Andrew's (2001), and a messianic Jewish congregation (Beth Shalom Ministries, 2004).

Major Payne was filmed at the Ashland train station, which now acts as a tourist information office and no longer sells rail tickets. Bloomberg Business in 2009 named Ashland "Best Place to Raise your Kids" in Virginia. in 2014, named Ashland one of America's 10 best small towns. Ironically, the railroad that made the town may now be one of its biggest threats, as many residents oppose construction of a high-speed rail line on the narrow right of way through the elongated historic town.

On October 19, 2002, Ashland made national news as the site of one of the Beltway sniper attacks. 37-year-old Jeffrey Hopper was shot at 8:00 pm in the parking lot of a Ponderosa Steakhouse as he and his wife left the restaurant.


Ashland is located at 37°45′34″N 77°28′38″W / 37.75944°N 77.47722°W / 37.75944; -77.47722 (37.759361, -77.477226).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 7.2 square miles (18.7 km²), of which 7.2 square miles (18.6 km²) is land and 0.04 square mile (0.1 km²) (0.55%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 148
1870 491 231.8%
1880 764 55.6%
1890 948 24.1%
1900 1,147 21.0%
1910 1,324 15.4%
1920 1,290 −2.6%
1930 1,297 0.5%
1940 1,718 32.5%
1950 2,610 51.9%
1960 2,773 6.2%
1970 2,934 5.8%
1980 4,640 58.1%
1990 5,864 26.4%
2000 6,619 12.9%
2010 7,225 9.2%
2019 (est.) 7,875 9.0%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 7225 people with 2,863 households in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 71.1% White, 22.2% African American, 0.4% Native American, 1.2% Asian, 0.68% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.7% of the population.

The median income for a household in the town was $46,474. The per capita income for the town was $23,569. About 5.9% of the population were below the poverty line.

Local festivals

For nearly 35 years, Ashland's main festival has been the Strawberry Faire in June. Vendors from all around the state sell a variety of different items (with a strawberry theme). Festivities include a Strawberry Faire Pageant for Little Miss and Mister Strawberry, as well as live performances by local artists. Ten Hanover County Schools students each year receive Strawberry Faire scholarships.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Ashland has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. Air pollution levels see.


Ashland's major highway connection is to I-95 at exit 92, via Virginia State Route 54. Commercial airline service is provided at Richmond International Airport, 26 miles (42 km) distant, and general aviation is served by Hanover County Municipal Airport, 5 miles (8 km) south of downtown.

Ashland's railroad station is served by Amtrak Northeast Regional trains bound for Richmond, Newport News and Norfolk, as well as points north such as Washington, D.C., and beyond on the Northeast Corridor to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. Other Amtrak long-distance trains, such as the Silver Meteor and Auto Train to Florida, pass through Ashland without stopping on the CSX railroad's double-track mainline that bisects the downtown business district. As those trains approach Ashland, onboard announcers point out the Randolph–Macon College campus and the houses and businesses facing the tracks.

Proposals in the 2016 "DC2RVA" study to improve rail service between Washington, D.C., and Richmond by expanding the existing double-track railroad to triple-track have prompted concerns about its impact on the prized ambiance of downtown Ashland. The Main Street merchants' association said at a hearing that the additional track would result in "incalculable” loss to the city's "charm, the quaintness, and the aesthetic values".

See also

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