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Bellona Arsenal

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1816–1817; 1940s renovation. 3800 Old Gun Rd.

The arsenal, once the site of the largest stock-pile of weapons in Virginia, was appropriately named for the Roman goddess of war. About a quarter mile east, in 1810, Major John Clarke and his partner William Wirt, later U.S. attorney general, had established a foundry. Located strategically on a bluff above the James River near the Chesterfield coal mines, the foundry (now only a few scattered ruins) produced small weapons. Clarke convinced the U.S. War Department to construct the arsenal, a complex of brick and stone structures, to store munitions (mostly those made by his foundry) and to fabricate and repair small arms. The arsenal was in use less than twenty years before it was closed. For a few years during Virginia's brief silk-raising boom in the 1830s, Thomas Mann Randolph of nearby Tuckahoe in Goochland County leased several of the buildings to use as a silkworm farm. During the Civil War, the arsenal was reactivated one last time. Four of Bellona Arsenal's eight main buildings are extant. The three surviving large brick buildings, one workshop on the west and two workshops on the east, were part of an elevated quadrangle, which was once surrounded by walls seventeen feet high. In the 1940s, these two-story brick shops with their rusticated stone foundations, horizontal belt courses, shallow brick pilasters, and recessed windows with stone sills were imaginatively converted into smart residences. The long granite powderhouse, now roofless, stands nearby.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee


What's Nearby


Anne Carter Lee, "Bellona Arsenal", [Midlothian, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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