Cultural History Historical

Cultural History Historical (HM1WMG)

Location: Richmond, VA 23234 Chesterfield County
Country: United States of America

N 37° 26.277', W 77° 26.278'

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—Falling Creek Ironworks Park —

The history associated with Falling Creek Park spans more than 400 years. Numerous industries existed along the creek from the 17th to the early 20th century.

The earliest industry that existed at this location was the first iron furnace in the New World. Iron ore was extracted locally as early as 1608. In 1619, the Virginia Company of London sent 150 men to establish three ironworks, of which Falling Creek was built in 1621 after the first crew died from "the seasoning" of the Virginia climate. The ironworks would be the first in the Western Hemisphere to produce pig iron. The establishment of the site was an important historic event as it led to the eventual settlement of the area. In 1622, an Indian attack on the settlement killed 27 English workers and left the buildings in ruins.

In 1750, Archibald Cary built a forge on the south side of Falling Creek, having inherited the land from his father. The Cary forge converted pig iron into bar iron. It proved to be unprofitable, so Cary turned his attention to a grist mill, but re-started the forge for the American Revolution. The forge was destroyed by British troops under Benedict Arnold in 1781. The grist mill was named for the 18th-century Cary plantation, "Ampthill," which adjoined the 69 acre mill tract to the north.
Archibald Cary recognized the importance of Falling Creek and the potential of the area's ability to provide resources to support settlement and commerce.

The mill was rebuilt in the 1850s by John Watkins and was active at least as late as 1906. The stone foundations on the north side of the creek are the remains of that mill.

Just west of Falling Creek along present day Historic Route 1 lies the remnants of the only pre-20th-century bridge still standing in Chesterfield county. This bridge, built between 1826-1828, was largely constructed from stone that may have been salvaged from the blast furnace from the original ironworks. The bridge was originally called the Manchester and Petersburg Turnpike Bridge. It is part of the state's first wayside park established in 1933.

Upstream from the present ruins of Archibald Cary's mill is the location of the first planned community in the area. Known as the Village of Bensley, this community was marketed as a convenient streetcar suburb and was developed by Albert Bensley in 1909 and was located 20 minutes from Richmond. The streetcar line connected Bensley to Richmond and Petersburg.

At the turn of the 20th century, another industry was taking shape along the banks of Falling Creek. In 1934, officials from the Old Dixie Distilling Company attempted to build a distillery at the site
of the original ironworks. They met with local opposition because of the historical and archaeological significance of the site. The distillery was moved to the east edge of the 57-acre property.

Post socket from the ironworks.
Grist mill ruins
Wooden timber from Cary's Forge.
Year Placed2016
Placed ByFalling Creek Ironworks Foundation, Chesterfield Heritage Alliance
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, January 26th, 2017 at 9:03am PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 284312 N 4146247
Decimal Degrees37.43795000, -77.43796667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 26.277', W 77° 26.278'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 26' 16.62" N, 77° 26' 16.68" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling North
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 6407 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Richmond VA 23234, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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