Posts Tagged ‘George Washington’

Finding the ways we honor U.S. Presidents in Richmond

Thomas Jefferson has a statue in the lobby of the Jefferson HotelRichmond has statues, monuments or cemetery statuary for five U.S. Presidents:

For the Southerners, Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederacy and has a monument on Monument Avenue and is buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

See more statues and monuments or check for where they are located on the Statues and Monuments page.


“George Washington’s Vision” at Canal Walk

"George Washington's Vision" at the Canal Walk Turning Basin in downtown Richmond, Virginia.WHAT: “George Washington’s Vision” at the Canal Walk Turning Basin in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

LOCATION: West of the intersection of 14th and Dock streets.

Richmond was the eastern terminus of the Kanawha CanalARTIST: Applebaum Associates Inc.


DESCRIPTION: The granite and bronze display is arranged in a circle and centered with a surveyor’s compass. The text and map within the display highlight the key points of the Kanawha Canal and Washington’s vision of connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.

* * *

"George Washington's Vision" at the Canal Walk Turning BasinFrom the display:

George Washington promoted the concept of a great central waterway long before he became this nation’s first President. A surveyor of western lands as a young man, and later a landowner of vast tracts beyond the Alleghenies, Washington had close knowledge of the western territories, which he feared would be controlled by France and Spain if trade routes to eastern markets were not established.

Washington’s vision was to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River with navigable rivers, canals, and a land portage through what is now West Virginia. After the Revolution, the James River Company was created, primarily as a result of his sponsorship and lobbying efforts. Before Washington’s death in 1799, a large portion of his dream had been realized.

Two canals bypassed the falls of the James River at Richmond, and 220 miles of river improvements extended westward. In the early 19th century, other farsighted Virginians took over Washington’s leadership role. The final elements of his plan were completed in the 1820s, when the Kanawha Turnpike joined the headwaters of the James River to the Kanawha River. In 1835, the James River and Kanawha Company was formed, and within 15 years a canal system stretched to Buchanan, Virginia, a distance of 197 miles.

A look inside the old Pump House

Pump House Park in Richmond, VirginiaThe City of Richmond is trying to bring back the glory of the Pump House. At a recent event at the old gothic treasure, parks director J.R. Pope talked with me about the plans for the Pump House, which was designed by the great Richmond city engineer Col. Wilfred Emory Cutshaw and built in the 1880s.

In the Falls of the James Atlas, by Bill Trout:

The gray granite Byrd Park Pump House is a magnificent example of the Victorian Gothic Style. The upper floor, with cast-iron arches, was a pavilion used by park visitors….[it] is a treasure well worth saving through re-use as a public meeting hall, part of a canal museum, a small restaurant and the terminus of canal-boat rides from downtown Richmond. It needs our help.

Images of the inside of the Pump HousePope and the Friends of the James River Park hope to make it reality someday soon. The hope is that it one day will be the new home for the James River Park System visitor’s center, Pope said. In addition, it could be a museum, learning center, host weddings, parties, events and the canal could once again be in operation.

Of course, it would not be cheap, and fund-raising would be a big part of making that happen. 

I got my first look inside the Pump House, and it is a great space.  I could see spots where Pope suggested an amphitheater could be placed. The building has space for offices, a gift shop, catering facilities — dream big, it might happen.

Inside the Pump HouseThe current state of the building is a little damp. Pope said that the canal would have to be drained and dredged. While the canal is dry, its leaky walls could be shored up to prevent the leaking that is seeping into the Pump House. Some areas of the main pump room are full-fledged springs and the room is constantly wet.

Inside the Pump House, missing the machineryHe also lamented that the old iron pumps — the big machinery that filled the pump room when it was in operation — are long gone. They were sold for scrap to Japan in the 1930s. They would have been a great tool for learning about the old process and purpose of the building, as well as being something cool to see on a visit.

Inside the Pump House, upper dance floorThe old dance floor — an open space with a balcony above the pump room on the top floor of the building — is every bit as alluring as I suspected. Standing there — after having read so much about the multipurpose usage of the building — I could easily imagine the grand parties held there in the early 1900s. People riding up the canal from downtown to the Pump House….maybe we can do it again someday? If not, at least experience a small measure of the building’s grandeur.

Improvements to the access to the building have been made. A dock on the canal and a wooden ramp and staircase have been in place for a couple of years. The inside of the building has safe staircases and walkways and the structure is sound.

George Washington's Lower Arch at Pump HouseAnother giant step in the right direction is the recent work to clear the grounds west of the Pump House. Much of the weeds and unwanted trees have been removed. Plus, the Lower Arch — the grand entrance to the canal, famously visited by George Washington in 1791 — can finally be seen again.

The building is more presentable to visitors — a large key to future fund-raising efforts that is not lost on Pope and the Friends of the James River Park.

Finally getting to see the inside of the Pump House made reminded me of something once said by Nathan McCann, photo journalist for NBC12 [watch a video of the inside of the Pump House]:

The building is stunning, but touring something so few people get to see inside is the real treat. As a news photographer, I get to see things like the Pump House in a more raw, more unfiltered state…There’s something vibrant about seeing a space sculpted into its intended purpose. There’s something beautiful about letting a place like the Pump House speak for itself.

Gothic artistry of the Pump House at Byrd ParkThat would be the key to making the building work as a visitor’s center — not to alter too much of the character, which I trust Pope and park manager Ralph White would honor.

I’d love to be able to kayak from Huguenot Flatwater down to the James River Railway Bridge, left at Grant’s Dam and glide in under the Lower Arch before taking a break at the Pump House. We’d be able to paddle back out and ride down to Reedy Creek or beyond to finish our trip.  

While we’re dreaming, how about being able to paddle back up from the current end of the Lower Canal, at Oregon Hill? [See two previous posts:  Field research: Paddling up Lower Canal and Paddling up Kanawha Canal = Boon to Richmond?].3-Mile locks at the Pump House

General Robert E. Lee’s statue on Monument Avenue

Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument AvenueWHAT: Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.

WHERE: Monument and Allen avenues in the center of a grass island in the roundabout.

ARTIST: Jean Antoine Mercie.

DEDICATION: May 29, 1890.

DESCRIPTION: A grand and imposing equestrian bronze figure 21 foot high, mounted on an oval-shaped granite pedestal 40 foot high, which is flanked on both sides by two gray marble columns. The statue is oriented to the south and was the first constructed on Monument Avenue.  The traffic flows around this monument in a roundabout, starting in 2004.

* * *

This monument is the one that draws the most “Wows” of all the Monument Avenue statues from first-time visitors. It is the biggest, tallest and most imposing statue of all in Richmond — even bigger than the George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square.

The traffic circle is wide and the inside has grass, so it is also the most approachable monument on the avenue. People can sit in the circle and watch traffic, catch sun rays and just hang out with General Lee. There rarely is a bad time of day to photograph the statue as well, as he is facing south and even in the winter, if the sun is shining, it will be on his face instead of his horse Traveller’s backside.

* * *Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue

HISTORY: Lee graduated from West Point Military Academy. He became a Captain in the Mexican American War. He had also served as a superintendent at West Point. There he was responsible for training future soldiers.
Based on his military accomplishments, he was asked by President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union army. Lee turned down the position due to his loyalty to Virginia. Lee traveled to Richmond in 1861 to accept charge of the Army of Northern Virginia. He later served as a military advisor to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee showed his skill of organization as he prepared 40,000 troops for battle. His men held him in high respect and obediently carried through his orders. Lee’s greatest battles included the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.

On the afternoon of April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to General Grant of the Union army at Appomattox Court House, marking the end of the Civil War.

After the war Lee became the president of Washington College, which is now called Washington and Lee University. On October 12, 1870 at age 63, Lee passed away at Washington and Lee. He is buried under Lee Chapel there.

Lee’s horse, Traveller, became well-known as he carried Lee throughout the Civil War. The horse died in June 1871 from stepping on a rusty nail.

George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square

George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square

George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square

Thomas Jefferson on the George Washington statue at Capitol Square

Thomas Jefferson

LOCATION: Capitol Square, northwest corner on axis with Grace Street extended. [slideshow]

ARTIST: Thomas Crawford, completed by Randolph Rogers.

COMPLETION: 1858-1869.

DESCRIPTION: A commanding equestrian figure of George Washington, 20 foot high mounted on a 40 foot high granite pedestal. The pedestal is surrounded by six 12 foot high bronze standing figures of John Marshall, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, George Mason, Thomas Nelson, and Andrew Lewis. Sitting out from the main grouping are six allegorical figures, each on their own pedestal. These figures represent Independence, Revolution, Bill of Rights, Justice, Finance, and Colonial Times. A cast iron fence surrounds the entire statue edifice.

* * *

Equestrian figure of George WashingtonI’m fond of statues and honoring our historic heroes, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert on the quality or composition of sculpture art. I’ve always liked the George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square. It is majestic and striking — and also more than 140 years old.

The image of Washington on his horse is not the way I picture him in my imagination, but it will do. If you want the more subdued and presidential version, go inside the Rotunda in the Capitol. It’s good to have options.

The equestrian statue has had its critics over the years. An excerpt from the Richmond Times-Dispatch on artwork at the Virginia State Capitol:

The Washington equestrian by Thomas Crawford may be the central piece of the outdoor collection, but it has come under the most vicious attacks.

Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing in his Italian notebooks, gave a detailed description of this “very foolish and illogical piece of work — Washington mounted on a very uneasy steed, on a very narrow space, aloft in the air, when a single step of the horse backward, forward or on either side, must precipitate him; and several of his contemporaries standing beneath him, not looking up to wonder at his predicament, but each intent on manifesting his own personality to the world around.”

In his “History of American Sculpture” for the National Sculpture Society, Lorado Taft found the work “so bad … that the approaching traveller can scarcely trust his eyes.”

He thought the horse looked like pasteboard being blown from its moorings, concluding that “there may be worse horses in American sculpture; there is certainly none more amusing.”

Taft also commented on the grave welts and sags captured by Joel Hart in the marble of Henry Clay, but what drew his attention was the face. “There is no getting away from the admirably ugly head,” he wrote.

Field research: Paddling up Lower Canal

I recently wrote about paddling up the Lower Canal between Tredegar takeout (putting in canal at Hollywood Cemetery) and Pumphouse Park  in Richmond. It could be done with some work if CSX granted permission, though my photos could leave some doubt due to a lack of water in the canal this fall.

View of canal below Hollywood Cemetery on North Bank Trail

View of canal below Hollywood Cemetery on North Bank Trail

First, let’s ignore CSX’s rights to the canal. Second, let’s also ignore the low water levels in the canal. That isn’t the case year-round. The above image shows the canal just west of the end of the Lower Canal as it drops through a sluice at Dominion Virginia Power. The paddle from here is flat and scenic. The train tracks would be to your left the entire trip.

After passing through wooded and secluded sections below the North Bank Trail and North Bank Park, the canal widens as it approaches Maymont. This trip was made by multitudes of Richmonders in 1800s as a means of travel headed west toward Lynchburg.

The canal widens as it reaches Maymont (see the Blue Heron, at left)

The canal widens as it reaches Maymont (see the Blue Heron, on the pipe)

After passing Maymont, the beginning of the Lower Canal is nearby at the historic Lower Arch. This would be the end of the paddle before re-entering the James. George Washington himself famously visited the Lower Arch while it was under construction in 1786. Washington was honorary president of the James River Company that founded and built the visionary canal system.

Lower Arch. There is an opening at left through second arch.

Lower Arch. There is an opening at left through the second arch, which is damaged. (Water is green in photo).

Sad thing here, as illustrated by the above photo, is that the breach in Grant’s Dam (which provides us Choo Choo Rapids) cuts off the major supplier of water to the canal at the Pump House.  It was nearly dry the day I visited, and quite overgrown. The area near the Lower Arch is cut off from foot traffic as it is CSX property. More study needed in this area.

Through the Victorian age and into the 1920s, the trek west on the Lower Canal was made by city dwellers on their way to the Victorian Gothic-styled Pump House for dances and parties for the city’s elite. It would be great to relive that, even if it was just in a canoe or kayak (trading suit and tie for a PFD). The canal was also used to transport goods, including rocks from the many granite quarries along this stretch, including Maymont and the hillsides west toward Williams Island.

The City of Richmond is trying hard to bring back the glory of the Pump House. It has been rumored that it one day may be the new home for the James River Park System visitor’s center.

City of Richmond plans for canal rides at Pumphouse Park someday.

City of Richmond plans for canal rides at Pumphouse Park someday.

I also know the plans seem to be slowly, slowly moving toward one day being able to take batteau or canal boat rides west from the Pump House on the Kanawha Canal toward the Powhite Parkway bridge and the Settling Basin, just below Windsor Farms. I’d love to be able to take my family on that trip around locks and under the James River Railway Bridge (my favorite man-made feature on the James).

Most of my information on the history of the canal comes from the Falls of the James Atlas by Bill Trout and from park signage at Pumphouse Park.

Finding pawpaws on the Buttermilk

Mike Gorski

Mike Gorski

Mike Gorski was digging around, shaking trees and snatching up valuable fruit one calm and sunny Friday afternoon down on the Buttermilk trail, just downhill from Riverside Drive.

He was seeking pawpaws, a “rare woodland delicacy” which were in season and free for the taking among the hardwoods on the steep, rocky hills of this popular trail.

I was seeking peace and quiet, and a chance to take a walk on the best mountain bike trail in the Richmond area — The Buttermilk. I had done some volunteer work and multimedia stories on the construction and reworking of this area of the trails, and wanted to see how it was holding up.

Gorski struck up conversation, and showed me a handful of pawpaws he was picking.  I didn’t try one at the time, but he described the taste — something of a cross between a banana and a mango. 

I told him that this year has been a revelation for me, stepping back in time to when I was a kid and was surrounded by so many family members that were farmers — or at least knew something about the natural world around them. Shopping at farmer’s markets and eating whatever we want. Apples that you can’t get in grocery stores because they are too ugly, big, small, funny-colored, etc.  Eating pears out of my Uncle Mike’s backyard tree and even grilling them to see what it would taste like.  Good times. 

Anyway, since I was loaded with a camera, I figured I should do more than pretend I’m a journalist, and pursued the story. 

Paw paws, ripe for the picking along Buttermilk Trail

Paw paws, ripe for the picking along Buttermilk Trail

I did a search for paw paws to confirm much of what Gorski told me, especially the nugget he mentioned about George Washington enjoying chilled pawpaws

History also tells us that pawpaws were well known to our founding fathers. It’s documented that George Washington was fond of pawpaw fruit, and pawpaws were among the many plants Thomas Jefferson cultivated at his beloved Monticello.

And checking the science behind the regional fruit:

Origin: The pawpaw is native to the temperate woodlands of the eastern U.S. The American Indian is credited with spreading the pawpaw across the eastern U.S. to eastern Kansas and Texas, and from the Great Lakes almost to the Gulf.

Fruit:The pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to America. Individual fruits weigh 5 to 16 ounces and are 3 to 6 inches in length. The larger sizes will appear plump, similar to the mango. The fruit usually has 10 to 14 seeds in two rows….Pawpaw fruit ripens during a four-week period between mid August and into October.

For my producer job at NBC12, I will have to be satisfied to live vicariously through reporters (especially Andrew Freiden) that do my kind of stories (outdoors & nature).  You can see Andrew’s report at