Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Newton Hopper Ancarrow (1920-1991):
Mr. Ancarrow was born in Richmond and earned a chemistry and physics degree from the University of Richmond. After serving in World War II, he worked for American Tobacco as a chemist, and then Experiment, Inc. as a rocket engineer. In 1957, he bought a New Jersey boat building business and relocated it to Richmond. He built the boat ramp at Ancarrow's Landing in 1965. The 250-foot launching ramp was equipped to service boats from small car-toppers to yachts and cruisers of more than 80 feet in length. It was well lit and open to the public 24 hours a day. Mr. Ancarrow started to notice that his new boat ramp was becoming covered with oily film. When he contacted city officials, they told him nothing could be done. The lack of responsiveness was frustrating for Mr. Ancarrow. It motivated him to embark on a clean river mission that would last until 1979. The city's combined sewer system and inadequate sewage treatment facilities caused sewage to be dumped in the river during heavy rains. The City of Richmond, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers were some of the targets
Mr. Ancarrow took many steps at personal expense to see the James River restored to its natural state. He filmed "The Raging James", documenting the deplorable condition of the river and the effects of channelization. The film aired on public television. Views of waste pouring into the James forced Richmond and the State Water Control Board to take measures against river pollution. Mr. Ancarrow brought lawsuits against local and Federal agencies to help protect the James River ecosystem.
Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972 caused the river at the boat ramp to become heavily silted and Mr. Ancarrow could not get permission to dredge. He ended business at Ancarrow Marine, Inc. and devoted all his time to photographing the wildflowers on the river banks and his clean water campaign.
Because of his activism Mr. Ancarrow was considered a nuisance by government authorities. As a punitive measure, his property was taken under the nebulous "Eminent Domain" clause as the City of Richmond claimed the land for future expansion of its sewer treatment plant. That expansion work never occurred. Mr. Ancarrow received no compensation for the value of his lost business, including the massive boat ramp which many now use to launch their boats to enjoy the river that Mr. Ancarrow fought so hard to protect. He took this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The suit was rejected in 1979.
Civil War Confederate Naval ShipYard - 1862
1864 - Boat ramp at Ancarrow Marine, Inc. built. The 250-foot launch ramp is 42 feet wide.
1969 - Mr. Ancarrow cofounded Reclaim the James, Inc.
Ancarrow Marine, Inc. hit hard by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The buildings were damaged.
Mr. Ancarrow publicly compared the James River to Ganges River in India, stating that the pollution was worse. One of Mr. Ancarrow's Middle Eastern clients, after being asked about the state of the river and what they would do to someone who polluted a river in his countries is reported to have said, " They would be killed."
Individual images of all the slides from Ancarrow's slideshow, as well as accompanying documentation such as Ancarrow's field notebooks, the script of the slideshow, and family photographs showing some of the boats he designed, can be found at the VCU Libraries digital collection "Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive."
1999 - Style named Ancarrow one of the most influential Richmonders of the century.
2012 - NHA named River Hero by the James River Association
Erected 2017 by Spalding Hall Troop 444.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Environment • Industry & Commerce • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical year for this entry is 1957.
Location. 37° 31.188′ N, 77° 25.141′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Brander Street east of Manchester Road, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1200 Brander Street, Richmond VA 23224, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Atlantic Sturgeon (within shouting distance of this marker); Up-River Venture (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); People-Technology-Commerce-Warfare (about 500 feet away); Crossing the Atlantic (about 600 feet away); Rocketts Landing (about 700 feet away); Mechanics of Slavery (about 800 feet away); Despair of Slavery (approx. 0.2 miles away); Union Army Enters Richmond (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 11, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 333 times since then and 77 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on May 11, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.