"It forms not only an ornament to our city, but it does honor to Virginia — There is no edifice like it in all America... We defy any one to view this noble and stupendous bridge, without admiration. It makes one's head dizzy to look down to the river below. Around are those beautiful islets, which add such a charm to the river landscape — and above and below are picturesque views of the city, of the public buildings, and the most prominent of them, the Capitol of the Metropolis of the State, which will tempt the citizen to make it his favorite promenade."Richmond Enquirer, 8/31/1838
From where you now stand, you can see the bridge abutments and terminus of the former Richmond and Petersburg Railroad bridge. When it was built in 1838, this trestle bridge stood 61 feet above the river at low water and was 2,867.5 feet long (a little over half a mile). The trestle stood 16 feet off the 18 piers of granite, which were quarried from the James River itself. It was destroyed by fire when the Confederates evacuated Richmond in 1865, and was rebuilt the following year. That bridge burned again in 1882, and was rebuilt as a steel truss bridge. The supports for the steel beams can be seen on either side of the old granite piers. Trains continued to run over this bridge until 1970. Since
then, the abutments have been used as obstacles for rock-climbers and habitats for wildlife.
James River Recreation
As long as there have been people in this region, they have been coming to the James River for food and recreation. Ancient anchors for fish traps, and fishing holes carved by Native Americans can still be seen amongst the rocks. By the 19th Century, local children had already found and named their favorite swimming holes and frolicked among the rocks in the hot summer months. Even a young Edgar Allan Poe was known to be a great James River swimmer.
For more information, visit us across the river at the Tredegar Visitor Center or at our websites, www.nps.gov/rich and www.nps.gov/mawa
Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge, 1894.
April 1865 image of African American women, only a few days after the end of slavery in Virginia, lounging on the rocks of the James a few yards in front of where you now stand.