Van Lew House
A young boy leads a donkey and cart in front of the Van Lew House at 2300 East Grace Street, on Church Hill in Richmond. Built in 1801 by John Van Lew, the mansion was home to his daughter Elizabeth, who ran a network of Union spies during the Civil War. The house was just six blocks from Libby Prison, and Elizabeth Van Lew bribed guards there for information and for help in getting Union prisoners transferred to hospitals where she might visit them. Historians have long suggested that Van Lew pretended to be insane in order to deflect attention from her spying, but the historian Elizabeth Varon has suggested that these "Crazy Bet" stories were probably in response to the elderly Van Lew. After the war, Richmonders treated her like a pariah, and the family mansion was said to be haunted after her death in 1900. It became a men's club briefly before being demolished in 1911.