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Downtown

RVA Legends — Richmond Iron Works

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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[RVCJ93] — showing original location at Ninth & Canal
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Ninth & Canal Streets (1st location)
Fifteenth & Broad Streets (2nd location)
Built, 1892 (2nd location)
Demolished, circa 1909 (2nd location)

Tredegar was not the only game in town.

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 1 — showing the ironworks diagonally southwest from the Turning Basin

The Richmond Iron Works, at Ninth and Canal streets, are owned and operated by Chamblin, Delaney & Scott, all three of them men of long experience and expert knowledge of their business. Mr. John Chamblin, senior member of the firm, has been identified with these works as proprietor since their establishment in 1869. He is a native of Loudoun county, this State, and is the manager of the firm’s finances.

(Ancestry) — Alexander Delaney

(Ancestry) — Alexander Delaney

Mr. Alexander Delaney was formerly one of the firm of Tanner & Delaney, who founded the Richmond Locomotive and Machine Works here, one of the largest concerns of the kind in America. Mr. James H. Scott, junior member of the firm, is a native of the city, and has had the very great advantage of education for the higher mechanical branches of the trade in one of the leading technical schools of the North. He has also had considerable practical experience of the business in California and New York.

May 2019 — looking towards Ninth & Canal Streets today

May 2019 — looking towards Ninth & Canal Streets today

These works represent, with their equipment, an investment of $50,000. They cover a space of 300 by 270 feet, or about an acre and a half. The buildings are of brick chiefly, and are fitted up with the latest and most complete devices and appliances for the business in all the departments. About 60 hands are steadily employed in the works, and when occasion requires, more even than that.

[RVCJ03] — showing the 2nd factory location in the Shockoe Valley

[RVCJ03] — showing the 2nd factory location in the Shockoe Valley

The specialty of these works is general architectural foundering and machine construction and repairs. Heretofore castings have been produced chiefly, but the firm has lately gone into machine construction more extensively than formerly. They utilize Virginia-made iron largely, and consume about 600 tons weight of it, in the various processes of manufacture, a year. [RVCJ93]

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Lumpkin’s Jail

(Encyclopedia Virginia) — Lumpkin’s Jail

But when the factory relocated circa 1892, the story took a turn.

Mary Lumpkin sold the Wall Street lots to Andrew Jackson Ford and his wife Mary Lucy Ford in 1873. Based on an examination of the city land books for this period, as well as detailed maps of Richmond from the 1870s, it appears most likely that the jail building had been demolished by 1876. In 1892, Ford sold the lots to John Chamblin and James H. Scott. With Alexander Delaney, they established the Richmond Iron Works on the site, which manufactured architectural iron work, stationary engines, and supplies for electric railroads. [PAILJ]

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 19

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 19

That’s right, the new location of the Richmond Iron Works sat squarely on top of the former location of Lumpkin’s Jail, the notorious holding cell of slave trader, Robert Lumpkin.

In this building Lumpkin was accustomed to imprison the disobedient and punish the refractory. The stout iron bars were still to be seen across one or more of the windows during my repeated visits to this place. In the rough floor, and at about the center of it, was the stout iron staple and whipping ring. (Encyclopedia Virginia)

(Valentine Museum) — showing the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in 1959, with the former jail & factory site at center

(Valentine Museum) — showing the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike in 1959, with the former jail & factory site at center

The Richmond Iron Works deeded the property on Lumpkin’s Alley to the Seaboard Air Line Railroad in the early twentieth century, and by 1909 the railroad had constructed a large freight depot on the site. In the mid-twentieth century, the two northern sections of the depot were removed, and the remains paved over. When the Richmond and Petersburg Turnpike was built in the late 1950s, the western portion of the former Lumpkin lots was buried beneath the elevated roadway, while the eastern section became a parking lot. [PAILJ]

May 2019 — looking towards the former jail & factory site today

May 2019 — looking towards the former jail & factory site today

How telling is the tread of time that speaks to a location’s usefulness? In the span of fewer than 100 years, this site was host to a slave pen, an ironworks, a railroad depot, and an interstate, largely forgotten for all but the latter. Given Richmond’s historical obsessions, it is sometimes remarkable the extent to which groundball history gets overlooked.

(Richmond Iron Works is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [PAILJ] Preliminary Archaeological Investigation of the Lumpkin’s Jail Site (44HE1053), Richmond, Virginia. Matthew R. Laird. 2006.
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

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RVA Legends is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!

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Community

Bike the Holiday Lights

BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels want to share the joy of bike riding in the city during this festive time of year.

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From now until January 8th there is a unique way to check out the holiday lights in Richmond. BASKET & BIKE and RVA on Wheels have teamed up to provide Richmond with a variety of tour experiences and rentals on wheels, and they will serve as your go-to place to test and purchase your new classic or electric bike, along with all the gear to outfit your bike style.

We’ll bike Downtown Richmond while the sun’s still out to stay warm! Chase the sunset with us on the avenues and bike lanes for a seasonal ride on classic or electric wheels. As dusk approaches, pass through holiday lights downtown where your tour ends with a voucher for a beverage (wine, beer, tea, coffee) at neighbors, Urban Farmhouse.

BASKET & BIKE Classic Bike $95
RVA on Wheels Electric Bike $125
Starts and Ends at 1301 E. Cary St.
Website and more Info

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Community

Street Closures for RVA Illuminates

Street closures on East Canal Street, South 7th Street and South 8th Street are already in place.

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Downtown

Missing context, political bias: Some of critics’ objections to Virginia’s new history standards

A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

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A number of groups are questioning new history and social science standards proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration ahead of a Board of Education meeting to begin reviewing them Thursday.

Critics from diverse communities and lawmakers, most recently in a Nov. 15 letter to the governor and school officials, argue the new standards are missing influential figures and events and voice concern about what they say is a lack of transparency regarding who authored the changes.

The standards will set Virginia’s expectations for student learning in history and social science, which are assessed through the Standards of Learning tests. The Board of Education delayed its first review after Superintendent Jillian Balow requested additional time to correct errors, reorder guidance and allow additional experts to weigh in on the draft.

“Continued review and edits to the standards over the past several months have strengthened the content at each grade level,” wrote Balow in a Nov. 10 letter to the Board of Education. “The edits honor the work done previously by Virginians, and national and state experts.”

Balow also said in her letter that draft curriculum frameworks, which are guides for teachers, will be published later.

However, critics in the Nov. 15 letter said the curriculum frameworks missing from the standards make it “impossible for anybody to effectively evaluate the draft as a whole.”

Among the letter’s signatories are 10 Democratic lawmakers and groups including the Virginia Education Association, the nonprofit Hamkae Center, which describes itself as organizing “Asian Americans to achieve social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia,” the Fairfax County NAACP and the Sikh Coalition. The Virginia Education Association referred inquiries to the Hamkae Center.

They also questioned the number of “problematic content changes that fail to reflect the concerns of our diverse communities” and the involvement of groups such as the Michigan based-Hillsdale College in the review of the standards.

Balow said last month that representatives from other colleges expressed interest in commenting on the draft standards after VPM reported that she was working with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative educational think tank, to develop the standards.

Here are a few objections to the proposed new standards that educational and other groups have raised.

Missing context

Critics say parts of the new standards lack proper context.

For example, while the standards replace the term “Indian” with “Indigenous people” and require students to study aspects of the groups, they do not mention that Indigenous People’s Day replaced Columbus Day in 1992 because Indigenous people view Christopher Columbus as a colonizer rather than a discoverer.

Additionally, the standards recognize the development of slavery in colonial Virginia but lack an emphasis on the slave trade and tobacco plantations, critics say.

“Nazis” and “The Final Solution,” which are necessary to understand the Holocaust, are also missing from the standards.

“Content is crucial for understanding the Holocaust and other genocides,” said Gail Flax, a retired educator. “You have to know what happened before and what happened afterward to be able to analyze and contextualize history.”

Narrative

With the removal of historical figures and events, critics have questioned the narrative of history the administration is conveying to students.

Zowee Aquino of the Hamkae Center said the revisions reflect “pretty explicit political bias.” She said the standards also have a Eurocentric theme that focuses on European or Anglo-American ideas and disregards the contributions of ethnic minorities in white countries.

For example, the name of Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist, was removed from the elementary school standards. King’s name first appears in the sixth grade standards.

Aquino said there’s no mention of Juneteenth, the Chinese Exclusion Act or Martin Luther King Jr. Day in any of the standards. China and the African civilization of Mali, which have been part of the standards for world culture studies, have also been removed from third grade standards.

The standards also do not include any mention of tribal sovereignty.

Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, said in a letter to the Board of Education that the revised draft deletes “major components of our history and deliberately omits the diverse perspectives that shape our commonwealth and our nation.”

For example, she wrote that the draft omits any discussion of the history or modern-day culture of the Latino community, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders or the LGBTQ community.

“These decisions would mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginia children would not have the opportunity to learn about their community’s contributions to the fabric and history of our nation,” McClellan wrote. “And, all Virginia students would lack a fuller understanding of our country’s history.”

Rejected recommendations

The inclusion of King, the national holiday for the civil rights leader and Juneteenth marking the day when all enslaved Africans became free were several edits recommended by the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, but excluded or generalized in the redraft.

The list of edits excluded include the mention of John Mercer Langston, the first African American congressman from Virginia. The commission’s recommendation that the standards include the phrase that “not everyone was considered a citizen when our country began, and for a long time after that, even until today” was also excluded.

Mention of Indigenous people and their culture being affected by white European colonization was also excluded from the standards, as was the phrase “the Virginia Colony’s economy was greatly dependent upon temporary and permanent servitude.”

Historical errors and inaccuracies

Critics also say the proposed standards have historical errors and inaccuracies.

Specifically, students starting in the fourth grade are required to explain the reasons for the relocation of Virginia’s capital from Jamestown to Williamsburg as part of the Revolutionary War. However, an email from the Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium Monday said “this makes absolutely no sense” given Virginia’s capital was moved from Williamsburg to Richmond to provide greater protection against British attack.

Additionally, the group says the standards erroneously convey that Zachary Taylor, who was elected in 1848, was the most recent president from Virginia instead of Woodrow Wilson, who was elected in 1912.

The standards do not explicitly say which president was most recent. The document only states that students starting in the fourth grade will be required to explain the growth of a new America with an emphasis on the role of Virginians by explaining Virginia’s prominence in national leadership, emphasizing its eight presidents from Thomas Jefferson to Zachary Taylor.

“The previous version of the proposed standards did not contain egregious historical errors such as this because they were developed by a team of educators, division leaders and historians,” the consortium wrote.

Age appropriateness

Aquino also questioned whether the revisions are age appropriate.

For example, first and third graders must learn about the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient law text, and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, under the proposed history standards. She said the history is “pretty dense and intense” and includes details about capital punishment.

However, Charles Pyle, a spokesman with the Virginia Department of Education, said under the standards, first graders will learn where the first civilizations began and third graders will learn about democracy. He said Aurelius is part of a list of suggested examples of mythical and historical figures students could encounter as they “hear, read, and retell stories.”

Open access

With the focus on the amount of work demanded of teachers due to the workforce shortage, critics question a sentence in the preface of the history standards that states teachers should provide all of their instructional materials to parents.

Under the Board of Education’s current regulations, parents have the right to inspect instructional materials used as part of the educational curriculum for students.

Aquino said many reports link teacher burnout with increased work demands and argued another mandate does not help support students.

“It’s a huge task that the new administration is asking them to take on that doesn’t improve instruction,” Aquino said.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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