The canal in front of you, constructed in the 1830s, was part of a navigation system that extended 50 miles up the Rappahannock River. The downstream terminus was a turning basin, in the block to your right. Several industries were located nearby, some using the canal's navigation function and others its water power. In the 1880s, R.T. Knox and Brother converted a small mill to an electric generating plant, which began to make hydro-mechanical power obsolete.
With electricity now available, industries relocated away from the flood-prone waterways. To meet the new and growing demand, hydro-electric plants evolved to serve larger geographical areas. In 1910, the newly constructed Embry Power Plant provided electricity to the region, its turbines fed by water flowing through this canal. To maximize efficiency, the canal had been straightened and the turning basin filled in. A neighborhood rapidly developed, changing the nature of this area from industrial to residential.
This 1854 lithograph shows the nature of the area around the turning basin.
This contemporary map shows how the canal was rerouted to allow the turning basin to be filled in and reclaimed for other uses. The canal no longer accommodated navigation, but would continue to be a raceway.
This detail from an 1878
map depicts the size of the turning basin and shows several related buildings.