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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)
 

Falls of the James

 
 
Falls of the James Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 25, 2009
1. Falls of the James Marker
Inscription. The Falls of the James River are the central physical fact of Richmond, having directly influenced its history through their effect upon Trade, Energy, Community and Nourishment.

Trade
As the Falls of the James are a natural barrier between the sea and the interior, the area immediately surrounding the Falls has for centuries been a center for trade. Before European settlement, the Powhatan and Monacan Indians exploited the lands around the Falls as a trading center for the entire region. With the arrival of Europeans, trade between the settlers and Indians flourished and the warehousing and export of tobacco grew in importance. Later, Richmond became a major transportation hub as a result of the construction of the James River and Kanawha Canal, built to by-pass the Falls. Transportation, hydro-power and nearby coal deposits made Richmond a center for the manufacture and trade of flour, wheat, tobacco and iron. Even today, Richmondís commercial and financial core overlooks the whitewater rapids of the Falls.

Energy
Though a barrier to navigation, the Falls were a boon to industry. Richmonders harnessed the water flow of the Falls to drive flour mills, iron plants, and paper mills, all major components of the cityís manufacturing growth. Later, hydro power from the Falls was utilized to generate
Falls of the James Fountain. image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 25, 2009
2. Falls of the James Fountain.
The fountain is inscribed with the four themes described by the marker: Trade, Energy, Community, and Nourishment.
electricity which fed the industrial and residential needs of the community. This included the powering of Richmondís trolley system, the first in the world to successfully operate by electricity.

Community
The Falls and its environs have always provided the most basic physical requirements for settlement and community: food, water, energy, and transport. With the growth of trade and industry along the Falls, Richmond became a more culturally diverse community as immigrants from all parts of Europe followed English settlers to the region. African-American slaves provided much of the labor and many of the skills and crafts essential to the early growth of Richmond, and upon achieving their freedom, became a major factor in the culture and growth of the city. Richmondís selection as Virginiaís capital and later as capital of the Confederacy can be traced to the cityís growth along the river. While the livelihood of Richmond depends less today on the James, our communityís mutual bond still begins at the Falls.

Nourishment
The Falls provided a wealth of vegetation, fish, wildlife and fresh water to nourish both Native Americans and early European settlers. By the early 1800ís, hydro power from the Falls drove pumps which provided the City with its first municipal drinking water system. Today, the Falls of the James continue to provide
Falls of the James River, Richmond, Va. image. Click for full size.
By Detroit Publishing Co., circa 1910
3. Falls of the James River, Richmond, Va.
Library of Congress [LC-D4-72498]
Richmonders with spiritual nourishment, whether through contemplation of the natural beauty of the Falls or through the unique recreational opportunities available along the James: white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and swimming.
 
Location. 37° 32.106′ N, 77° 26.53′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker is at the intersection of Tredegar Street and South 7th Street, on the right when traveling east on Tredegar Street. Touch for map. This marker is on the Richmond Riverfront Canal Walk. Marker is in this post office area: Richmond VA 23219, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Canal Walk / Historic Canals (a few steps from this marker); R&P Railroad Piers (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Confederate Laboratory (about 300 feet away); Confederate Ordnance Lab Explosion (about 400 feet away); Brownís Island (about 400 feet away); Tredegar Iron Works (about 400 feet away); John Jasper (about 500 feet away); Albemarle Paper (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
 
Also see . . .
1. Richmondís Historic Canal Walk. Venture Richmond (Submitted on October 29, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 

2. James River and Kanawha Canal Historic District. National Park Service (Submitted on October 29, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.) 
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceNatural ResourcesSettlements & SettlersWaterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 29, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 828 times since then and 39 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 29, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.   3. submitted on November 2, 2009, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
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