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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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Stoney: City to “cautiously move” into Phase 1 of reopening plan on Friday, May 29th

On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan. Masks will be required in all indoor spaces and restaurants will be asked to voluntarily connect patrons’ information for contact tracing purposes.

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On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan.

“When I look at the picture in totality, given the added tools at our disposal, the current trends in our local data and my faith in Richmonders to look out for one another, I believe that Richmond can cautiously move into Phase 1 on Friday, May 29,” said Mayor Stoney at Thursday’s press conference.

During the first delay that the City of Richmond requested, the Stoney administration and Richmond City Health District expanded testing efforts, implemented a contact tracing effort, ensured every COVID-19 positive Richmonder will be able to isolate safely and securely with supported isolation, and advocated for a statewide mask requirement.

The city initially requested a modified Phase 1 reopening that maintained restrictions on places of worship and personal care and grooming services, as mass gatherings and close personal contact for extended periods of time both significantly increase chance of community spread.

Because the governor denied the city’s modified plan for reopening, Richmond will move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan, with strong recommendations reflecting the mayor’s proposed modifications. Local guidance and helpful links to state guidance are available here. The state has yet to provide guidance on what Phases 2 and 3 will include.

The mayor detailed a number of best practices for residents and business owners to ensure that the city moves into Phase 1 cautiously. The best practices emerged from conversations between the Stoney administration and members of the business community, faith leadership, and health professionals.

  1. All residents who are medically able to should wear a face-covering that covers the mouth and nose when in public spaces. The wearing of a face covering does not negate the need for 6-foot social distancing.
  2. Faith communities should continue to meet virtually if possible. If in-person meetings are absolutely necessary, the mayor strongly recommends faith groups meet outside while practicing strict social distancing and enforcing the face-covering requirement.
  3. Food and drink establishments that choose to offer outdoor service at half capacity are asked to request a name and contact information of patrons who dine in for contact tracing purposes. This practice is voluntary for both patrons and restaurants. However, collecting this small amount of information for each dine-in party will go far in assisting the Richmond City Health District in tracing and containing outbreaks. Guidance on this practice is available here.

The mayor made two requests of the state: to continue to assist the city in further expanding testing capacity and in providing adequate face-coverings and hand sanitizer throughout the capital city.

“Quite frankly, we’re going to need more support from the state for our residents and our businesses to reopen safely and sustainably,” the mayor noted in his appeal. “I make these recommendations and requests of the state because, as has been my mantra this entire pandemic. Reopening should be slow and steady.”

“When public health is on the line, blindly pushing forward is not an option. Decisions must be thoughtful, and they must be based in our collective knowledge of and love for our city.”

See more reopening guidance for local businesses here: www.rvastrong.org/reopeningguidance.

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Governor Northam announces face covering requirement, denies Richmond’s request to modify phase one reopening

Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. At the same time, the governor denied a request by Mayor Levar Stoney to place restrictions on places of worship and personal grooming businesses when Richmond enters phase one of reopening Friday.

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Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday signed Executive Order Sixty-Three, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Governor also directed the Department of Labor and Industry to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19.

The governor also signed an amended Executive Order Fifty-One, extending Virginia’s state of emergency declaration.

The new executive order supports previous actions the Governor has taken to respond to COVID-19 in Virginia, and ensures workers and consumers are protected as the Commonwealth gradually eases public health restrictions. The Governor’s statewide requirement for wearing face coverings is grounded in science and data, including recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that individuals should wear face coverings in public settings. Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

“We are making progress to contain the spread of COVID-19 and now is not the time for Virginians to get complacent,” said Governor Northam. “Science shows that face coverings are an effective way to prevent transmission of the virus, but wearing them is also a sign of respect. This is about doing the right thing to protect the people around us and keep everyone safe, especially as we continue to slowly lift public health restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

A face covering includes anything that covers your nose and mouth, such as a mask, scarf, or bandana. Medical-grade masks and personal protective equipment should be reserved for health care professionals. Under the Governor’s executive order, any person age ten and older must wear a mask or face covering at all times while entering, exiting, traveling through, and spending time in the following public settings:

  • Personal care and grooming businesses
  • Essential and non-essential brick and mortar retail including grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Food and beverage establishments
  • Entertainment or public amusement establishments when permitted to open
  • Train stations, bus stations, and on intrastate public transportation, including in waiting or congregating areas
  • State and local government buildings and areas where the public accesses services
  • Any indoor space shared by groups of people who may congregate within six feet of one another or who are in close proximity to each other for more than ten minutes

Exemptions to these guidelines include while eating and drinking at a food and beverage establishment; individuals who are exercising; children under the age of two; a person seeking to communicate with a hearing-impaired person, for which the mouth needs to be visible; and anyone with a health condition that keeps them from wearing a face covering. Children over the age of two are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering to the extent possible.

At the same time, Northam denied a request by the Stoney administration that sought to modify the City of Richmond’s move into phase one by placing additional restrictions on places of worship and salons, spas, and other personal grooming businesses.

The governor responded saying that Richmond should adhere to the same phase one regulations as other cities and counties in the Commonwealth beginning this Friday, May 29th.

The full text of Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five is available here. The text of amended Executive Order Fifty-One is available here.

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Underground Kitchen’s New Food Relief Nonprofit Surpasses 10K Meals Distributed

The food relief operation currently has nine chefs and two bakers working in church kitchens to produce homemade soup and bread, soon to include family-style pot pies, pastas, and casserole dishes to help sustain families for several days.

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Great news from the folks at Underground Kitchen.

In less than two months, the UGK Community First Project – officially registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofit in early May – has provided more than 10,000 nourishing meals to people throughout metro Richmond, primarily to those who are food insecure or whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure during the COVID-19 crisis. The Community First Project was formed by Michael Sparks and Kate Houck, the CEO and COO respectively of Underground Kitchen, an acclaimed Richmond, Va.-based experiential, roving dinner series that’s now on hold until it is safe to resume operation.

The UGK Community First Project initially launched on March 16, 2020, right after Underground Kitchen paused its dinner series in response to the COVID-19 crisis. “We saw an immediate need in our community created by the crisis – both for healthy meals to be delivered to those in need, as well as for those in the food industry to have access to work in a safe environment to support their families,” says Houck.

The first 175 meals were delivered to individuals impacted by the crisis and front-line health workers in the community the week of March 23, 2020. By May 11, 2020 that number had increased to 2,000 meals for the week, distributed to food insecure communities, those who are home-bound or quarantined, front-line health workers, first responders, families and care-givers and others throughout Richmond.

UGK Community First has scaled up its response to help through the generous support of Episcopal Diocese of Virginia member churches in metro Richmond. The food relief operation currently has nine chefs and two bakers working in church kitchens to produce homemade soup and bread, soon to include family-style pot pies, pastas, and casserole dishes to help sustain families for several days.

“We are conscious of the continued impact of COVD-19 and are committed to doing what we can to address the need for meals in the community for the duration of its influence,” says Houck.

“However, we have also seen that, regardless of the agencies that already exist in the region, there continues to be a deep need for healthy, unprocessed, consistently delivered meals even in the best of times. Therefore, we see UGK Community First continuing long after this crisis passes, with a focus on distributing meals to families and children who live in a constant food insecure environment, as well as supplementing other programs who are doing the same,” she adds.

In addition to the Episcopal churches, over the past several weeks, Underground Kitchen has worked with a coalition of community partners, donors, and volunteers including: Better2gether RVA, CARITAS, GoochlandCares, La Casa de la Salud RVA, the Armstrong Renaissance community, Virginia Supportive Housing, and CultureWorks Richmond (through the COVID-19 Arts and Culture Relief Fund).

UGK Community First has also supplied meals to: St. Mary’s Hospital, Memorial Regional Medical Center, Richmond Community Hospital (all part of Bon Secours), McGuire VA Medical Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Richmond, Richmond Ambulance Authority, and The Doorways.

For more information about the UGK Community First Project food relief operation, please visit theundergroundkitchen.org.

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