The present town of Buchanan, lying on both sides of the James River, was formed in 1882 by the merger of Pattonsburg, established in 1788 on the north bank of the river, and Buchanan, established in 1811 on the south bank. The towns began to grow after 1851 when the James River and Kanawha Canal linked Buchanan to the port of Richmond. Hopes of extending the canal were swept away by the railroads and, after the Civil War, railroading brought new life to Buchanan. The Swinging Bridge (1897) across the James River at Bridge Street is a steel structure that replaced a wooden toll bridge of 1851 that was rebuilt after it was burned in the Civil War. Portions of the present bridge's stone piers date to the 1851 bridge. Many of the town's buildings date from its boom period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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