Once called Washington's or Broad Rock Island, Belle Isle was bought by Captain John Smith from Chief Powatan in 1608. Early travelers found the island natural and idyllic and current visitors only see hints of the island's industrial past. In 1815, a wooden dam built on the southern side diverted water to power a nail factory, which eventually became Old Dominion Iron and Steel. Belle Isle later became the home of stone quarries and a Virginia Electric Power plant.
Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works
Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works began in 1832. This large factory employed many Richmonders. The company manufactured iron bars, horseshoes, nails, spikes, staybolt bars for steam locomotives, and plates for the C.S.S Virginia and other vessels during the Civil War. As steel replaced iron, the company changed its name to Old Dominion Iron and Steel Corporation and began producing steel products.