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Downtown

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
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  • 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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Business

Greater Richmond Convention Center marks 20 years serving region

Since 2003, the complex has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments, and other events, bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

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Virginia’s largest meeting and exhibition venue celebrates two decades of welcoming events and visitors to the Richmond Region this year. The Greater Richmond Convention Center officially opened on February 28, 2003, as cheerleaders from across the country flipped in the American National Cheer and Dance Championships in the building’s exhibit hall.

Since then, the GRCC has hosted a total of 7,034 conventions, consumer shows, sports tournaments and other events bringing millions of people and dollars to the region.

The GRCC replaced the 62,000-square-foot Richmond Center, which opened in 1986. Stretching across a six-block area, the 700,000 square-foot GRCC incorporates some of the steel and pillars from the original facility.

Construction for the project began in 1999 and was supported by a $10 million investment from former Governor George Allen and the regionwide transient lodging tax.

“It is the best example of regional cooperation in the history of this whole area,” said late Lt. Gov. John H. Hager during a 2002 press conference.

The Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority – a political subdivision of Virginia with representation from the city of Richmond, Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico counties – oversaw the financing, development and construction of the GRCC. The Authority’s 25th anniversary is this year.

We’re immensely proud of the legacy and the positive impact the Greater Richmond Convention Center has had on tourism,” said Lincoln Saunders, City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer and Chair of the Greater Richmond Convention Center Authority. “Millions of people are introduced to the Richmond Region through events and competitions that are hosted at the facility every year. These visitors support our economy by shopping at our small businesses, eating at restaurants and visiting attractions.”

To examine the viability of the GRCC, regional leaders commissioned a feasibility study by C.H. Johnson Consulting in 1999. The researchers projected hotel tax collections to reach $30 million by fiscal year 2020. Hotel tax collection revenues reached $30 million by fiscal year 2019.

Throughout the GRCC expansion phases, groups were welcomed to the region to use completed portions of the building. About 1,200 women from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority were the first to use the facility’s new ballroom during a three-day conference in May 2001.

When the GRCC was officially completed in 2003, Richmond Region Tourism had booked 18 conventions through 2008.

Interest and bookings have experienced a dramatic uptick over the years. During its last fiscal year, the GRCC hosted over 180 events.

From USA Fencing tournaments and ice dancing competitions to offshore wind conferences and comic conventions, the GRCC has hosted various large-scale events since it opened.

“The convention center is a shining example of regional collaboration,” said Jack Berry, president and CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “The success of the convention center demonstrates how investing in tourism results in positive economic development for our entire region. Richmond Region Tourism and its partners are committed to working alongside our community to continue tourism’s positive momentum.”

The GRCC went through extensive upgrades to modernize the facility in 2020.

GRCC’s technological and cosmetic improvements include new LED lighting and RGB color lighting, monitors, digital signage, and a new digital sound system.  Its interior spaces were updated with new tile, accents, paint scheme, and pub-style tables and seating. The facility also features a new executive lounge and a renovated food court and service desk.

Today the GRCC features 178,159 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, a 30,550 square foot grand ballroom, and 50,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting room space.

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Downtown

Animal welfare advocates disappointed bill to declaw cats failed

House Bill 1382 would have made the declawing of cats a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill failed to advance when it was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

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By Cassandra Loper

A proposal to outlaw the declawing of cats, a procedure that animal rights advocates call cruel and unnecessary, failed to advance from a House subcommittee last month.

House Bill 1382 would have made cat declawing a $500 civil penalty for the first violation, $1,000 for the second violation and $2,500 for the third or any subsequent violation. The bill was tabled by a 6-4 vote in a House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources subcommittee.

The bill is important because cats’ claws are natural and used for stretching, marking territory, balance and more, according to Molly Armus, Virginia state director of the Humane Society of the United States.

Declawing cats is actually an “incredibly painful procedure,” according to Armus.

“I think it’s up to us, as people who are taking these cats into our homes, to learn more humane and less invasive ways to manage scratching,” Armus said.

An onychectomy, or declawing, is a surgery that includes 10 separate amputations, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world, according to its website.

Declawing is typically performed for convenience, according to the Animal League Defense Fund. Many people declaw their cats to prevent scratching, its website states.

“Localities around the nation, a couple of states, including our neighbor Maryland, have passed a declawing ban,” said bill sponsor Del. Gwendolyn Gooditis, D-Clarke, in the committee meeting.

New York and Maryland are the only U.S. states that have outlawed declawing. Multiple U.S. cities have passed declawing laws, with the most located in California, according to PETA.

“Declawing cats means, look at your hands, it would be the equivalent of your fingers and your toes being chopped off at the first knuckle,” Gooditis said.

The procedure can cause impaired balance, as much as a person would after losing his or her toes, according to PETA. Declawed cats may have to relearn how to walk.

“It’s a removal of that last bone,” Gooditis said.

Susan Seward, a lobbyist for the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, or VVMA, testified against the bill in the committee meeting. The VVMA strongly opposed the bill, Seward said.

“I think one of the unintended consequences would be setting up a really unpleasant and adversarial relationship between animal control and veterinarians, and that is certainly not a relationship we want to diminish,” Seward said to the committee panel.

Alice Burton, program director for nonprofit animal welfare organization Alley Cat Allies, said the organization was disappointed the bill failed.

Alley Cat Allies mission is to protect and improve the lives of cats. according to its website. The organization operates a trap-neuter-return program to help stabilize the cat population. A cat is transported to a veterinarian, spayed and returned to its original location.

It’s an act of cruelty to declaw cats, according to Burton, who was an animal control officer for 15 years.

“They no longer have their nails as a defense, so their first instinct is to bite,” Burton said. “So all of a sudden they’ve got these bites on their record, which obviously does not bode well for them.”

Declawed cats also struggle to use the litter box because the litter hurts their paws, she said. Many cats who have been declawed will stop using the litter box and soil where they aren’t supposed to, Burton said.

“I would say most of the time these negative effects lead to these cats being surrendered to the shelters or rescue groups,” Burton said. “They would, in most cases, be deemed unadoptable and they would be euthanized.”

There are many other humane options out there, according to Burton.

Humane alternatives to declawing include trimming a cat’s claws regularly, using deterrents such as double-sided tape on furniture, rubber caps for the nails and providing a variety of scratching options, according to Alley Cat Allies.

“We’re not giving up,” Burton said. “We’re going to come back and keep fighting.”

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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

Library of Virginia celebrates Black History Month with Panel Discussion on Black Political Activism After Claiming Freedom

Editors of the Library’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography joined this project in 2011 in collaboration with the commonwealth’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission to research and write about the 92 African American men who served in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1890.

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In honor of Black History Month and as part of its 200th anniversary activities, the Library of Virginia will present a panel discussion on Thursday, Feb. 23 to celebrate the completion of a signature project that documents the lives of Virginia’s first Black legislators. Titled “The First Civil Rights: Black Political Activism After Claiming Freedom,” the free panel discussion, offered in partnership with Virginia Humanities, will be held 6-7:30 p.m. in the Library’s Lecture Hall. Advance registration is required at https://lva-virginia.libcal.com/event/10200777.

Editors of the Library’s Dictionary of Virginia Biography joined this project in 2011 in collaboration with the commonwealth’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission to research and write about the 92 African American men who served in the General Assembly from 1869 to 1890. Their stories are now available online as part of Virginia’s collective digital story thanks to a collaboration with Encyclopedia Virginia, a rich online resource sponsored by Virginia Humanities.

Black Members of the Virginia General Assembly, 1887-1888.
Front row, left to right: Alfred W. Harris (Dinwiddie), William W. Evans (Petersburg), Caesar Perkins(Buckingham).
Back row, left to right: John H. Robinson (Elizabeth City), Goodman Brown (Surry), Nathaniel M. Griggs (Prince Edward), William H. Ash (Nottoway), Briton Baskerville Jr. (Mecklenburg).

“We’re proud to celebrate such a meaningful project to document early African American representation in our commonwealth’s legislature,” said Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway. “We encourage the public to join us at what will be a very insightful discussion examining the contributions of early Black legislators and their enduring legacy today.”

Panelists for the program, moderated by Virginia Humanities executive director Matthew Gibson, will include the Honorable Viola Baskerville, one of the founders of the project; Lauranett Lee, public historian and University of Richmond adjunct assistant professor; Ajena Rogers, supervisory park ranger at the National Park Service’s Maggie L. Walker Historic Site and a descendant of Black legislator James A. Fields; and historian and author Brent Tarter, a retired editor with the Library of Virginia.

For more information on the panel discussion, contact Elizabeth Klaczynski at 804.692.3536 or [email protected]. Learn more about the Library’s anniversary events at www.lva.virginia.gov/200.

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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