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Tredegar Iron Works
Tredegar Iron Works

Tredegar Iron Works


Although the Tredegar Iron Works is best known for its rolling mill production during The Civil War, when the plant burned in 1952 the fire destroyed nearly 120 years of Richmond, Virginia's history. Today the National Park Service has restored the splendor of the site and uses it as the anchor for the so-called Richmond Battlefield Park.

After 3 years of building the ironworks, Tredegar began production in 1836. It is apparently named for Tredegar, a Welsh town that was home to the chief of construction, Rhys Davies. It wasn't long before the Panic of 1837 impacted the production of the plant, forcing layoffs and reducing working hours. One of the workmen ending up stabbing Rhys Davies a year later.

With the end of the Panic, railroads began spreading across the Virginia countryside and much of the iron used to build them came from the Tredegar Works. So did the locomotives (between 5 and 7 per year rising to 7 to 10 per year after the Panic of 1857). In 1848 then manager Joseph R. Anderson purchased Tredegar from the Richmond businessmen who started the foundry and continued to run it. Anderson, an ardent secessionist, would only sell his products to Southern states once South Carolina seceded.

Production at the plant continued almost to the end of the war. Anderson organized men to protect the Iron Works from Confederates leaving Richmond, saving it from the fate of other waterfront businesses. By 1870 Tredegar was producing at full volume once again, until a fire in 1952 ended the business.


Tredegar Iron Works is an excellent stop for "drive-by" Civil War buffs because its not very far from I-95 (Exit 74c) in Richmond. Each turn is marked with a blue directional pennant and as you get closer to the site there are the expected brown signs. As you enter the gate look to your left for a kiosk-like structure with a red background, white letter sign proclaiming the "American Civil War Center." Iron grate steps or an elevator carry visitors one-story higher and to the back of the building.

Abraham Lincoln's walk to the Confederate White House two days after the fall of Richmond, Virginia is commemorated with a statue of the President with a young boy. A separate kiosk discusses Lincoln and the visit, giving a possible route (there is so little known about the visit that his route can only be guessed).

Entering the three-story museum takes visitors to the "Map Room" at the heart of the center. Each of the battles covered by the battlefield is discussesd in an interactive display that shows you the battlefield today with the Confederate and Union men represented by red and blue circles. The overview gives casual observers a good idea of the action that took place at each battle.

We spoke with Mike Gorman, a ranger with an excellent grasp of the area battles as well as other Civil War history. Mr. Gorman also fielded a number of questions from us and others regarding Tredegar Iron Works. He explained that the buildings you see today represent just a small portion of the iron works during the Civil War. While the original iron works extended to the banks of the James River today there is some development and a park between Tredegar and the river.

In addition to the interactive maps there are other displays about the battles fought in the Richmond area. Two campaigns, Grant's Overland Campaign and McClellan's Peninsula Campaign are also covered. The park has a small book room behind the counter. Two other floors have exhibits accessible by stairs, but this is one place you will want to ride the elevator. The folks at Tredegar Iron Works have taken a "cut-away" approach to the shaft, lining the elevator with windows so you can see the various stages of building that the elevator passes through.

Location:On the James River in downtown Richmond, Viriginia
Directions:Take I-95, Exit 74C and follow the blue pennants.

Addtional Information:470 Tredegar St.
Richmond, Virgina, 23219
(809) 819-1934
Cost: Minimal (Recommended donation)

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