Growing Up On The Water: A History Of The Locks

great richmond rentals

Let’s face it, Richmond: as a city, we sure do love our history.

We’re not stuck in it, by any means. But we do get a little thrill every time we walk past the Capitol on our way to lunch, or glimpse the Main Street Station clock tower as we zip along the ramp onto the Downtown Expressway. Our history defines this city and helps us create great Richmond rentals.

The Locks holds a unique place within this history. Situated directly on the Kanawha and Haxall Canals, right by the old Turning Basin, this place has both facilitated and reflected Richmond’s growth.

Back in the 1700’s, ship merchants and traders were having a devil of a time navigating our Class IV rapids, making it difficult to transport goods between the Ohio River and the Chesapeake Bay. In 1772, George Washington himself proposed a canal system that would link the James River to the Kanawha River in western Virginia. He even personally surveyed the footprint on which The Locks now sits.

The James River Company was formed in 1785 (with Washington as its honorary president) to begin work on the James River and Kanawha Canals. This system included a series of five locks that would become known as “The Tidewater Connection Locks”. When finally completed in 1854, the canal system stretched all the way from Tidewater to Buchanan, Virginia—covering a distance of 197 miles. Though traffic along the canals began to dwindle in the early 20th century, the mills and warehouses that sprung up along the canals brought economic prosperity to Richmond.

The four historic buildings of The Locks that house great Richmond rentals were originally built along the canal system as warehouses for the tobacco industry (you can still see the ad for R.J. Reynolds cigarettes painted on the front of the Italianate: “Try one today!”). The property most recently served as an aluminum foil distribution facility for the Reynolds Metals Company.

Interestingly, however, what we now call the Haxall Canal has never actually functioned as a canal. It was built in 1789 as a “millrace”, supplying water to turn mill wheels and generate a continuous source of power. Even as ship traffic dwindled, the canal system continued to bring jobs and industry to downtown Richmond.

Here at The Locks, we’re excited to help preserve the spirit and vitality of this historic area. In fact, that’s why we’ve chosen “The Locks” as the name of our community for great Richmond rentals. We want nothing more than to see this place once again connecting people and places in downtown RVA.

After all, we’re Richmonders. And we love our history.

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time;
It illumines reality,
Vitalizes memory,
Provides guidance in daily life
And brings us tidings of antiquity.

—Marcus Tullius Cicero