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Downtown Riverfront

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The north bank of the James River, from the Mayo (14th Street) Bridge to the Robert E. Lee Bridge at Belvidere Street, is traditionally considered to be the area where the English first came ashore at the falls in 1607. Today a monumental bronze cross, mounted on a base of river stones near the corner of 12th and Canal streets commemorates this party of explorers, which included Christopher Newport and John Smith. From the early nineteenth century until after the Civil War, the riverfront and the James River and Kanawha Canal (Richmond's attempt to secure a western transportation route) served as a commercial and transportation center linking the navigable waters of the James with areas west of the fall line. Today the riverfront area is defined on the north by a massive flood wall, a skeleton of a railroad trestle, and the Downtown Expressway (which was completed in 1977 atop parts of the former canal system). A generation after the loss of much of the canal, however, remaining segments are being reworked into a new canal system. This newly configured waterway is the centerpiece of a plan for additional office and retail and entertainment spaces near the riverfront. Its development should help meld the district's interesting mix of distinctly urban nineteenth-century industrial and warehouse buildings and late twentieth-century high rises, office buildings, and green spaces of a more suburban character.

Writing Credits

Richard Guy Wilson et al.

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