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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Great Ship Lock

 
 
Great Ship Lock Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, September 18, 2011
1. Great Ship Lock Marker
Inscription. The first Great Ship Lock was built in 1816. It connected the navigable part of the James River with the Richmond city dock, which extended for 10 blocks to the west. The lock raised sailing ships and steamboats approximately 13 feet above the tidewater of the river into the harbor, safe from the river current, for loading and unloading cargo. In 1854, the James River and Kanawha Company constructed the present Great Ship Lock to accommodate ships as large as 180 feet long by 35 feet wide. It opened the city to transatlantic trade and made Richmond a world port.

(sidebar)
Richmond Trade in 1860

After the Great Ship Lock opened in 1854, trade increased steadily, with packets arriving from New York, Baltimore and Boston. Great Ship Lock traffic nearly doubled before the Civil War limited trade activity.

What were they carrying?
The numbers below show typical cargoes transported in and out of Richmond in 1860, the height of its trade activity.

Incoming vessels
Coal: 29,897 tons
Iron: 13,333 tons
Fish: 25,470 barrels
Oats: 27,035 bushels
Lime: 48,491 casks
Salt: 73,177 sacks
Shingles: 3,116,600

Outgoing vessels
Flour: 423,194 barrels
Wheat: 143,000 bushels
Tobacco: 56,367 packages

[graph]Traffic
Great Ship Lock Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, September 18, 2011
2. Great Ship Lock Marker
through the Great Ship Lock

Source: History of the James River and Kanawha Company; Wayne F Dunaway, Columbia University, 1922
 
Erected 2011 by Virginia Capital Trail.
 
Location. 37° 31.54′ N, 77° 25.254′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Dock Street and Pear Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located in the Great Shiplock Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2803 Dock Street, Richmond VA 23223, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Coffer Dams (a few steps from this marker); Confederate Navy Yard (a few steps from this marker); Rocketts Landing (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Great Ship Lock (within shouting distance of this marker); Rocketts Landing and Wharf / Confederate Navy Yard / Powhatan’s Birthplace (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Great Ship Lock (within shouting distance of this marker); City Locks River Gauge (within shouting distance of this marker); Welcome to Chapel Island (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
 
More about this marker.
Great Ship Lock Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, September 18, 2011
3. Great Ship Lock Marker
Photo captions:

The Gates of the Great Ship Lock
With the opening of the new lock oceangoing ships had access to Richmond Dock. The Valentine Richmond History Center

Map of the City of Richmond (detail)
Prepared by M. Ellyson, 1856. Drawn shortly after the construction of the Great Ship Lock and the Tidewater Connection, the map shows the route ships traveled from the James River into the canal and directly to the city’s dock. The canal system and lock helped make Richmond an important transportation and commercial hub. Massive cargoes of its flour, wheat and tobacco products were shipped to coastal ports and from there to points all over the world. Valentine Richmond History Center
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceWaterways & Vessels
 
Great Ship Lock image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, September 18, 2011
4. Great Ship Lock
Great Shiplock Park image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, September 20, 2011
5. Great Shiplock Park
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 517 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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