This 22-acre historic site situated on the now-defunct James River and Kanawha Canal is an early example of adaptive reuse in post-industrial Richmond. From 1837 to 1952, the Tredegar Iron Works produced iron and ammunition until all but five buildings were destroyed by fire. In the 1970s, the land’s owner, Ethyl Corporation, preserved and stabilized the remaining historic structures and restored the Civil War-era gun foundry. Around the same time, the James River Park System was created, beginning a new chapter of providing public access to Richmond’s riverfront district.
Today, the former foundry building is home to the American Civil War Museum at Historic Tredegar and the National Park Service’s Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center. Platforms added to the iron work’s twenty-foot-tall stabilized brick arches provide viewing promontories along the multi-terraced site. Outlines of former buildings are demarcated with contrasting, light-colored paving at both the entry and within parking courts. Crumbling retaining walls on the site’s northern extent trace the route of the canal that was dismantled in 1880. The Iron Works anchors the one-and-one-quarter-mile-long Canal Walk, an interpretive pedestrian promenade, designed by Wallace Roberts Todd in the 1990s. Tredegar Iron Works was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.