OXFORD: A History from England to America

A BRIEF HISTORY OF OXFORD

 

Why the name OXFORD? With many of the original developers of OXFORD no longer living, one can only speculate as to why this name was chosen, but it seems very reasonable to assume that the name has its origin in England.

 

In fact, most place names in Virginia have British roots. Early settlers named localities out of reverence for their birthplace, or because the area was geographically reminiscent of a locale in England.  “OXFORD ON THE JAMES,” the first phase of the development for the general area we call Oxford (built circa 1955) closely mirrors its British namesake, OXFORD ON THE THAMES. The Thames is the largest river in England and runs through the City of Oxford to the capital city of London. Our own James River (named for King James of England) is the largest river in Virginia, running parallel to OXFORD and through RICHMOND, the capital city of Virginia. Other similarities include the digging of a navigable canal along the Thames for commercial traffic, and by the mid-19th century, the construction of a nearby railroad line. The historic 18th century Kanawha Canal, first surveyed by Thomas Jefferson and developed to promote commercial traffic, was built alongside the James River. Railroad tracks followed a century later. Interestingly, the closest town to OXFORD ON THE THAMES is NOTTINGHAM, and perhaps by coincidence, or maybe inspiration, the subdivision across Huguenot Road from Oxford is named NOTTINGHAM.

 

In reality, OXFORD actually has many names. OXFORD ON THE JAMES was the first phase of the development and encompasses the area of Riverside Drive, east of Oxford Parkway. Arrowhead and Wyncliff Roads comprise OXFORD HILLS.  OXFORD ADDITION generally runs from Cherokee Road across Chippenham Parkway and beyond. Some areas further into Bon Air are simply called OXFORD. A new sign in 2001 refers to this area north of Scherer Drive as OXFORD AT BON AIR.

 

Oxford encompasses two historic areas, SOUTHAMPTON and BON AIR. Its boundaries are Huguenot Road to the west, and generally speaking, the subdivisions of STRATFORD HILLS in SOUTHAMPTON and SOUTHAMPTON ACRES in BON AIR to the east.  The boundary between SOUTHAMPTON and BON AIR is the Dominion Virginia Power transmission line at Scherer Drive and Huguenot Road. The Bon Oaks Lane area to the west in BON AIR is called BON AIR HEIGHTS and is the western border.

 

Many people believe that OXFORD was divided into two parts when the Commonwealth of Virginia built the first portion of Chippenham Parkway as a new two-lane connection between Huguenot Road and Forest Hill Avenue in 1960. Others believe that OXFORD was geographically divided when the City of Richmond annexed the portion from Riverside Drive to the power lines in 1970. Actually, OXFORD has always been one community spread over two different locales – BON AIR and SOUTHAMPTON.

 

The “division” resulted in friendly competition between the Southampton Recreation Center for activities and sports (swim teams in particular) and the Bon Air Recreation Center.  Until annexation in 1970, the Bon Air-Southampton Volunteer Fire Department located on Buford Road would call all volunteers to action. The wail of the air raid siren atop of the fire house building located in the 2700 block of Buford Road could be heard for miles alerting volunteers. This arrangement served as joint protection for 30 years and was a great example of communities united for the common good. Separate citizens associations were formed. The Bon Air Community Association was formed on April 8, 1937. The Southampton Citizens Association was formed in 1946. Both associations provided help and guidance during the unprecedented expansion after World War II, including publishing a directory listing of all residents for many years (OXFORD residents were listed in the directory that corresponded to the locale in which they lived). Both organizations continue to address issues that affect their communities at large and provide community social events (though Southampton Recreation Center has its own governing association).

 

OXFORD’s own Civic Association formed in April of 1963 to serve the entire OXFORD community.  The Association was dormant in the early 1980’s and was resuscitated a few years later to address the development of “filler” lots in the subdivision. Today, the Greater Oxford Civic Association serves as one of the strongest civic associations in the area with over 300 member households and a very active Board of Directors. The OXFORD community has played a significant role in the modern histories of both SOUTHAMPTON and BON AIR. The work of its’ citizens and the organizations they support have insured that in living south of the Huguenot Bridge, one will find a pleasant, safe and sound community!