Petersburg, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Petersburg’s Old Towne
You are standing in the oldest part of Petersburg, known today as Old Towne. In 1646, Fort Henry was established here, along the colonial frontier, to protect settlers in the region and to capitalize on trade with the Virginia Indians. Fort Henry was the point of origin and return for the four most important inland explorations in the 17th-century English colonies. Indian trade in the region continued at until at least the 1750s. Petersburg-area men were the Colony’s official translators for Cherokee allies during the French and Indian War and communicated with both of the Catawbas and the Cherokees when they came to Petersburg to be outfitted by the Colony to fight in the war.
Early in the 18th century, settlement of Southern Virginia and the North Carolina Piedmont centralized Petersburg’s role in the tobacco trade. Petersburg provided the closest access to transatlantic shipping in the area, and as a result, tobacco rolled in from the surrounding region in exchange for European goods and African slaves. In 1730, the first of seven official tobacco inspections in the
Manufacturing, Transportation & Commerce
With the decline of transatlantic trade after the Revolution, Petersburg’s economy shifted to a focus on manufacturing, transportation, commerce and banking. Much of this activity took place in Old Towne. By the beginning of the Civil War, Petersburg was second only to Richmond in the South as a manufacturing center. By then the dominant mode of transportation had become the railroads, and Petersburg, especially Old Towne, had become a major railroad hub. The city was dense with wholesale and retail merchants, banks, and auctioneers, who conducted weekly auctions of property, including slaves, in the streets of Old Towne.
Decline and Revitalization
The nine-month siege of Petersburg at the end of the Civil War began a long decline for Petersburg and Old Towne that lasted through the 1960s. Four factors worked together to hasten this decline: 1) fashionable commercial businesses moved south along Sycamore Street, out
Erected by City of Petersburg and the Cameron Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable Places. A significant historical year for this entry is 1646.
Location. Marker has been reported damaged. 37° 13.992′ N, 77° 24.265′ W. Marker is in Petersburg, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of East Old Street and Rock Street, on the right when traveling east on East Old Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 9 E Old Street, Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this location. Old Market Square (here, next to this marker); Touring Old Towne (here, next to this marker); Petersburg National Battlefield (here, next to this marker); City Sights (here, next to this marker); Petersburg’s Natural Parks (here, next to this marker); Pamplin Historical Park (here, next to this marker); Petersburg Region (here, next to this marker); Petersburg Museums (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Petersburg.
More about this marker. The marker contains several photographs with the captions:
Above: Bollingbrook Street was once a major business and residential area. Below: an aerial photograph of Old Towne as it appears today.
Below: a submerged Indian fish dam in the Appomattox that may be as much as 2,000 years old.
Below: Appomattox Iron Works on Old Street has been renovated and converted into apartments, but the foundry, on the right, remains.
The Peter Jones Trading Post, seen above right in an old photograph, is considered by some to be the original site of Fort Henry. It was damaged by a fire in 1980, and now looks like the photo at far right. There are plans to restore the building.
Above: the Dunlop Tobacco Factory, which has been converted into apartments. Right: Old Street, immediately after the tornado that ripped through Old Towne and Colonial Heights on August 6, 1993.
Right: a scene on Bank Street in front of the Exchange Building, now the Siege Museum. Above: an old photo of South Side Depot during the Civil War, right, looking much as it does today, except for the destruction of the right wing of the building by the tornado of 1993.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 9, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 9, 2012, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 483 times since then and 25 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 9, 2012, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. 3. submitted on May 9, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.