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RVA Legends — Phoenix Foundry

A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer part of our landscape.

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(Ancestry) — looking towards 9 North Eighth Street, date unknown
  • 9 North Eighth Street
  • Built, after 1865
  • Demolished, between 1924-1950

William B. Cook: competitor to Asa Snyder, and no shallow man he.

(Library of Congress) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate K — showing foundry location

(Library of Congress) — Beers Illustrated Atlas of the Cities of Richmond & Manchester, 1877 — Plate K — showing foundry location

It is only your shallow man who believes in luck-who limits his faith to the ruling of a star or the casting of a planet. The laws of gravity, of chemistry, of botany, and the other natural laws, are not more fixed and certain in their operation than those who push their way up the plane of social and rational life, and there develop their influence in the struggle which every man makes in life, from the boy’s game of play up to the crowning act of individual achievement in work. The sublime faith that believes in the stars-that looks up and out upon the deep-vaulted night, and tries hard to formulate a faith that all men can accept and rationally founded-may be admired by us for the grandeur and vastness of the problems it seeks to solve;

[HILL] — advertisement in Hill’s Richmond City Directory, 1874-75

[HILL] — advertisement in Hill’s Richmond City Directory, 1874-75

but a little reason, not too shallow or superficial in quality, will soon bring us back to the more rational basis of cause and effect, the same arithmetic of which may be accurately computed as the threads of an even web. Law is the basis of everything, and although it works by invisible hands and feet, it treads steadily in one path, and brings out the uniform result. The lucky man is the one who perceives the chance of success, and seizes it at the right moment to make the success his own. He may be thwarted time and time again by adverse or unforeseen contingencies, such as no proper forecast, can effectually guard against; but a resolute faith in cause and effect in the industrial dogma that something comes from something and nothing comes from nothing, will bring him out successfully in the end.

(Ancestry) — William Bennett & Jane Bath Cook on their wedding day, October 10, 1850

(Ancestry) — William Bennett & Jane Bath Cook on their wedding day, October 10, 1850

The owner of the Phoenix Foundry, Mr. William B. Cook, is a happy exemplification of the correctness of these reflections. He is a hard worker, and has had some hard rubs with “Adverse and unforeseen contingencies.” He has been burnt out no less than three times in twenty-five years, but by dint of perseverance and the best of all personal qualities–pluck–he has risen each time, if not Phoenix-like, from the ashes of a previous establishment, yet like a resolute and determined man, who, when one chance fails him, is ready, nothing daunted, to strike for another.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1886) — Plate 15 — showing former foundry building now a livery

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1886) — Plate 15 — showing former foundry building now a livery

With him, work is victory. He takes no chances at luck, and consequently draws no blanks. Each blast of the forge, and each blow of the hammer, is what he has faith in, and leaves the rest to fortune. There are larger and more imposing establishments in Richmond, but his political economy is not to cut the throat of their competition, but to establish his own. No man is prouder of the prosperity of Richmond, arising from the other and larger establishments, than the energetic and public-spirited owner of the Phoenix Works. He seeks to share only in the general prosperity, and demands patronage only as he may show himself worthy of it.

[CHAT] — advertisement for Phoenix Foundry in Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, 1881

[CHAT] — advertisement for Phoenix Foundry in Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, 1881

The Phoenix Foundry is on the east side of eighth street, between Franklin and Main. Prior to November, 1871, it was run by Messrs. Cook & Viles, but since that time Mr. Cook has been the sole proprietor. He employs a large force and turns out a large variety of general castings, besides manufacturing iron railings, balconies, verandahs, columns, caps, sills, vault doors and frames, and all kinds of iron work for buildings. In fact, about everything this side of the line of Architectural iron work is successfully turned out in his establishment.

July 2015 — showing three-tiered verandah of the Stephen Putney House, cast by Phoenix Foundry [CAW]

July 2015 — showing three-tiered verandah of the Stephen Putney House, cast by Phoenix Foundry [CAW]

His building is a large three-story brick, on Eighth above Main, with the foundry in the rear of it, and two stories above for machinery, woodwork, and pattern loft. He has recently completed and put up the large and comodious burglar & fireproof safe vault, in the new banking house of Messrs. Issacs, Taylor and Williams, on the corner of Thirteenth & Main Streets, which is said to be the largest safe ever manufactured south of “Mason and Dixon’s line.” Whether this be so or not, it is certainly large enough to satisfy and one that what our home institutions cannot do in the way of manufacturing mammoth safes, need not be sought for elsewhere.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building to become a News-Leader Printing site

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building to become a News-Leader Printing site

Mr. Cook is also constructing iron fronts for buildings, and doing not a little to the architectural taste and beauty of our city. The iron work for St. Mark’s Church (Episcopal) is from his establishment, as well as numerous verandahs, balconies, railings, etc., of iron, put up during the past two or three years in different parts of the city. The iron work to the new office building of the Gas Works at Rocketts, with fine iron verandah and steps, was furnished by Mr. Cook. He has lately filled orders for Norfolk, for points in North and South Carolina, and other parts of the South, and he is confident he can compete, in quality and style of work, as well as in price, with any similar establishment in this or any other city.

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1924) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building now vacant

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1924) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building now vacant

Mr. Cook has had an experience of twenty-five years and upwards at the business in which he is now engaged. Born in an adjoining county, and coming to Richmond when he was a mere boy, he has spent his apprenticeship and whole business among us. He has had, as we have before intimated, some pretty severe rebuffs of fortune; but he has come out every time with a resolution to strike ten blows for success where he had only struck five before.

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1950) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building now an auto parking lot

(ProQuest® Sanborn Maps Geo Edition™) — Sanborn Insurance Maps of Richmond (1950) — Plate 10 — showing former foundry building now an auto parking lot

Starting first as a partner of Barnes & Co., he was afterwards of the company of Lownes & Cook, then of Cook & Viles, and now has the Phoenix Foundry as his own– a foundry appropriately named from the circumstances already referred to, that on three several occasions he has seen his different establishments reduced to ashes.

Such business energy and capacity as he has shown, and such faith in his work as the means of ultimate triumph, entitled him to a liberal if not generous share of public patronage. [GILL]

April 2020 — looking towards the former location of 9 North Eighth Street

April 2020 — looking towards the former location of 9 North Eighth Street

The growth of the Main Street canyon — the stretch of high-rises that today runs between Twelfth and Sixth Streets — and the proximity of the former ironworks to it, did not bode well for its future. Sometime after 1924 it was demolished and became a parking lot, a condition that probably lasted until the building that is now 8th & Main Apartments was constructed in 1968.

That’s a lot of changes for one location: foundry, livery, print shop, parking lot, office building, plus whatever else it was before the Evacuation Fire.

(Phoenix Foundry is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [CAW] Cast and Wrought. Robert P. Withrop. 1980.
  • [CHAT] Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, VA. 1881.
  • [GILL] Richmond Directory 1873-74. R. W. Gillis.
  • [HILL] Hill’s Richmond City Directory (Chesterfield and Henrico Counties, Va.), 1874-75.

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Combining protean forces from the forbidden Zero Serum with the unbridled power of atomic fusion, to better probe the Wisdom of the Ancients and their Forgotten Culture.

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Suspension Bridge to Belle Isle Closed Today

The bridge should be completed by the weekend.

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The suspension pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle is temporarily closed due to concrete falling from Lee Bridge.

The closure took place Wednesday after city officials received reports of concrete pieces being found on the pedestrian bridge.

“It was concluded that the concrete pieces fell from an open joint of the Lee Bridge. Consequently, the pedestrian bridge located directly under the open joint had to be closed in an effort to protect the public,” a release said.

While the engineers say there is no serious danger they’re putting in a scaffolding protection system along some stretches of the bridge. The installation is taking place today (Thursday) and is expected to be done Friday.

Dominion RiverRock is this weekend and temperatures are in expected in the upper 90’s so usage of the bridge and Belle Isle will be at a season-high.

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Virginia lawmakers dodge questions on whether budget might include new policy on skill games

“Let’s keep ’em guessing,” House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, said Tuesday when asked for a response to the claim the budget could include a revised policy on skill games, either to tighten the existing ban or to lift it.

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By Graham Moomaw

Budget leaders in the Virginia General Assembly won’t say if they’re considering changing the state’s contested ban on slots-like skill machines through the budget, despite that possibility already convincing a judge to order a lengthy delay in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban.

Last month, lawyers challenging the ban as unconstitutional pointed to the legislature’s ongoing special session and unfinished budget to argue the case should be delayed until all sides know what the state’s official policy on skill games will be. But the General Assembly’s budget negotiators won’t even say whether skill-games are part of their discussions.

“Let’s keep ’em guessing,” House Appropriations Chairman Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach, said Tuesday when asked for a response to the claim the budget could include a revised policy on skill games, either to tighten the existing ban or to lift it.

Knight insisted the budget will get done and said “fine-tuning” is underway.

“In negotiations, I don’t comment on anything,” Knight said. “That’s how I work a negotiation.”

Asked about potential skill games changes Tuesday after a meeting in Richmond, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, one of the 14 legislators working on the state budget, deferred to Senate Finance Chairwoman Janet Howell, D-Fairfax. Howell did not attend Tuesday morning’s Senate Finance Committee meeting, and she did not respond to an emailed request for comment Monday. In an email, a Senate budget staffer said “budget negotiations are ongoing.”

As Virginia recently relaxed laws to allow more types of state-sanctioned gambling, skill games have become a perennial point of contention. Usually found in convenience stores, sports bars and truck stops, they function similarly to chance-based slot machines but involve a small element of skill that allows backers to argue they’re more akin to traditional arcade games. Most machines involve slots-like reels and spins, but players have to slightly adjust the squares up or down in order to create a winning row of symbols.

Proponents insist the games are legal and give small Virginia business owners a piece of an industry dominated by big casino interests. In 2019, the chief prosecutor in Charlottesville concluded that they amount to illegal gambling devices, and critics have accused the industry of exploiting loopholes to set up a lucrative gaming enterprise that rapidly grew with minimal regulatory oversight.

After a one-year period of regulation and taxation to raise money for a COVID-19 pandemic relief fund, the critics won out in the General Assembly, with a ban on the machines taking effect in July 2021. But a Southside business owner who filed a lawsuit with the assistance of Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, successfully won a court injunction late last year barring enforcement of that law until his legal challenge is resolved. After Stanley wrote a letter pointing to the special session and unfinished budget talks as a reason to delay a hearing scheduled for May 18, the judge overseeing the case postponed the hearing until Nov. 2. The order also prohibited the state from enforcing the ban against thousands of previously regulated skill machines until November. The order doesn’t apply to machines that weren’t fully legal before the ban took effect, a distinction sowing confusion for local officials trying to sort out what’s allowed and what’s not.

In recent social media posts, the plaintiff challenging the ban, truck stop owner and former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler, said the delay was requested because “legislators are threatening to now try to ban or legislate skill games through the budget.”

“So we need to know what we are fighting against,” Sadler said in a message posted to Twitter last week in response to a Virginia Mercury article about the delay.

Skill-game supporters have claimed the ban was driven by other gambling interests who want to clear out smaller competitors to make more money for themselves. As the gambling turf wars continue in Richmond, some local governments are frustrated by the lack of clarity on whether the state is or isn’t banning the machines.

“It’s created chaos,” said Franklin City Manager Amanda Jarratt.

Jarratt said her city has been dealing with crime and other disturbances associated with the machines, but has gotten little help because there’s no regulatory agency in charge of them. Virginia ABC had temporary oversight of the machines starting in 2020, but that ended when the ban took effect last year and ABC no longer had legal responsibility over gaming machines in ABC-licensed businesses.

“It continuing to drag on over months is only making the situation worse and leaving localities in a difficult position,” she said, adding her city simply doesn’t have the staffing power to try to figure out which machines are operating legally and which are illegal. “You want to be fair to the business owners, but you also need to look out for the best interest of the locality as a whole.”

Jarratt said she’d like clearer direction on whether the state is going to allow the machines or not.

If a new skill-game provision is put into the state budget, it would still need to win approval from the full General Assembly. But with the clock ticking to pass a budget before the fiscal year ends June 30, it’s unclear how open party leaders would be to changes to whatever deal budget negotiators present as the final product of months of work.

Knight offered little clarity on whether skill games are even a live issue. He also seemed to caution against putting too much stock into what people say they’re hearing about the budget.

“I heard that we were going to do the budget today. I heard we were going to do it on the 24th. I heard we were going to do it on the 27th. I’ve heard June the first. I’ve heard a lot of things,” Knight said. “But as far as I know, the only people that know are maybe a few budget conferees. And we’re not talking. Because we’re working to get things right.”

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Look Up Saturday for the 40 ACRES: Chimborazo Park Skywriting

The poetics of the skywriting serve as a reminder of that unfulfilled promise of reparations.

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1708 Gallery is excited to announce the date of 40 ACRES: Chimborazo Park, a skywriting performance by Sandy Williams IV. For the performance, a skywriter will trace the dimensions of a 40-acre plot above Chimborazo Park to place a sharp focus on the Freedman community that existed in this area. The poetics of the skywriting serve as a reminder of that unfulfilled promise of reparations. It is a public acknowledgment that will be briefly visible for miles and a physical metaphor for the ways in which the legend of reparations, “40 Acres and a Mule”, still holds an invisible presence in our atmosphere. The visual presence of things might disappear, but the memory is kept alive in the stories that we remember and pass down. This performance is part of William’s upcoming exhibition with 1708 and their long-term work The 40 Acres Archive.

Sandy Williams IV’s skywriting performance 40 ACRES: Chimborazo Park will begin at 3:00 pm.

At the performance, visitors can expect a DJ set, light refreshments, and a brief presentation of the project by Williams and his collaborators.

Please RSVP. This event is free and open to the public.
This project is being supported by Reynolds Gallery, Oakwood Arts, where Sandy is an artist in residence through support from CultureWorks, Afrikana Film Festival, and Arts & Letters Creative Co.
Reserved rain dates to be confirmed the week of:
Friday, May 20, 2022 (5:00 PM – 7:00 PM)
Sunday, May 22, 2022 (2:00 PM –  4:00 PM)

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