RVA Day trips: Pump-House Park (video)

Posted by: brad – Apr 13, 2015


The James River Park System is an impressive collection of some pretty amazing public parks. Many of us already know this, but there's little details which can provide a fun and informative afternoon as well as some high quality vitamin-D.

Take, for instance, Pump-House Park.

This structure was built by the city and acutally provided its water from 1883 until WWII when it was scrapped for iron and steel (they also had built a second pump-house).

But until then, Pump-House park was considered a social spot for RVA's high-end folks, with machinery below, and a dance floor and gathering space above with views of the canal and the James itself.

Check out this amateur tour video via Chris Cooper for a brief overview of the historic spot.

Here's a bit more about the park via JRPS:

There are three canals running east-west in the Park. The most northern one is the Power Feeder canal, or feeder canal, built in the early -1880s along with the immense Pump House. This feeder Canal ran the turbines for pumping water from the same canal up to Byrd Park. It is fed by a split from the Kanahwa canal to the west of the Pump House. This canal is used today mainly for showing full scale bateau replicas. It is crossed by a cor-tan service bridge just adjacent to the west end of the Pump House building, and the Power feeder canal contains a CSO pipe, which is visible in low water conditions.

The second, or middle canal, is the part of the Kanahwa Canal system, which was started in the 1820s, to circumvent the rapids near Richmond’s growing industrial production center. In fact, in the Central Business District today, the Kanahwa Canal led to a large Turning Basin, located in the vicinity of the Omni Hotel today. The Pump House Park is also known as the Three Locks Park, because it contains two granite canal locks, which are about 3 miles upstream from the Turning Basin downtown.

The lowest canal, which currently does not contain water (but it does contain water and sewer lines) is the beginning point of the James River canal system, which was the first canal system in the United States. This canal, begun in 1786-17899, was to connect Richmond with Lynchburg and parts of Virginia further west, opening the frontier to commerce and further settlement. George Washington, considered the father of this and other canal systems, passed through here when he traveled this section in 1791. A small granite archway can be seen here, commemorating his visit and involvement, and the park has constructed a small overlook platform and placed informational signage to interpret this historic structure and the site.

You can take a guided tour of the old pump-house on Saturdays, 10-4 p.m. (weather permitting) April - October.

Check out more details here.

Words by BK - Top image via google maps