DHR to Host Series of Talks and Tours Centered Around James River History

Published April 5, 2023

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
April 5, 2023


Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager

—Join Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources Underwater Archaeology Program for presentations about the history of the James River and its impacts on Richmond, and then go on follow-up guided walks and river cleanups—

RICHMOND – Have you ever driven over one of Richmond’s bridges, or stood on the banks of the James, and wondered why the city is situated on whitewater? What are all those foundations at Belle Isle? What did all those dams in the river supply? What fish lurk in the rapids? Now is your chance to find out!

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) is holding two public talks—each one to be followed by a walking tour and cleanup event near the James River—at the end of this month and at the start of May. The talks will cover topics including Richmond’s port at Rocketts Landing, the shad fish’s role in the James, shipbuilding in the city, the James River and Kanawha Canal Historic District, and the planned mega-port in the city’s Manchester neighborhood. Space at all venues will be limited, so guests are highly encouraged to arrive as early as possible to ensure their participation in these events. The events are free and open to all members of the public.

The first presentation will take place on April 26, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in the DHR Collections Room, located at 2801 Kensington Avenue in Richmond (23221). DHR’s State Underwater Archaeologist Brendan Burke will lead a discussion on the cultural history of the James River and its effects on the development of Richmond’s communities. This presentation will focus on the James River and Kanawha Canal and the associated industries anchored by the canal and the river. Attendees at the presentation will then be given an opportunity to sign up for a guided walking tour and cleanup event on Belle Isle, planned for Saturday, April 29. More details about the tour will be available immediately following the presentation.

DHR will hold a second presentation on May 3, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, located on 236 South Laurel Street in Richmond’s Oregon Hill neighborhood (23220). Jill Schuler, DHR’s Assistant Underwater Archaeologist, will lead a discussion about the cultural history of Richmond as a port. The talk will be centered around Richmond’s maritime landscape below the Fall Line and highlight the events and places that have influenced the founding and growth of the city. Attendees at this presentation will be given details and a chance to sign up for a guided walking tour and cleanup, scheduled for Saturday, May 6, at Ancarrow’s Landing in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood.

Learn more about the experts who will host these events recalling Richmond’s maritime history:

  • Brendan Burke | State Underwater Archaeologist, DHR.
    Brendan is a Virginia native whose work focuses on the history of the James River. He can frequently be found on—and in—our state waterways, exploring their histories.
  • Jill Schuler | Assistant Underwater Archaeologist, DHR.
    Jill’s research is concentrated on the maritime aspects of the American Revolution in Virginia, specifically the Siege of Yorktown.
  • Reid Parker | Co-Owner, Current Culture Fly Fishing Shop.
    Reid grew up on the James and has turned his love of the river into a profession. He often takes visitors out on the water to teach them about the river’s ecosystem through the art of fly fishing.
  • Simón Valencia Abello | Co-Owner, Current Culture Fly Fishing Shop.
    Simón is a professional fly-fishing guide on the James River and throughout Virginia’s waterways. His observations on shad, striped bass, and river life provide a unique perspective to natural systems in an urban setting.

DHR is hosting this event series in partnership with our friends at the City of Richmond Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities James River Park System and the Current Culture Fly Shop. The series satisfies the outreach component of a larger DHR program supported by grants from the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to collect additional data on the maritime history of the James River through archaeological surveys of submerged historical and cultural resources. The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund is financed through a portion of the proceeds from the annual subscription fees of the “Friends of the Chesapeake Bay” license plates. Information on how to purchase a license plate that supports the Chesapeake Bay is available through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Through these talks and tours, we hope to impart a better sense of the James River’s place in Richmond history to our guests. We will also offer participants of the walking tours a chance to leave the river cleaner and better than they found it. Gloves and trash bags will be provided to those who wish to help pick up trash during the walks. Planned stops will include hidden-in-plain-sight archaeological sites that are linked to a vibrant industrial past but yielded troubling results on the river’s ecology.

*Please remember: Space is limited at all venues for these events. The river tours and cleanups will require guests to sign up during each preceding presentation. Guests are asked to wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the tours as these events will be held outdoors, rain or shine. Make sure to arrive early to each event to get a space!




A headstone at Union Street Cemeteries in Hampton, Virginia

Grave Matters: The African American Cemetery & Graves Fund

Update: 2024 General Assembly Session

Image slides

Meet the New Division of Resource Information & Registers

Longs Chapel as it appears today due to the stewardship of the Longs Chapel Preservation Society.

Virginia Landmarks: A Showcase of Successful Historic Preservation Projects

Shenvalee Golf Resort

Shenvalee Golf Resort Brings Golfers and Families to Shenandoah County for Almost a Century

Bottle seal from Eyreville

Brand Identity in Colonial Virginia


Related Press Releases

Full-scale model of Barbara Rose Johns Statue for the U.S. Capitol

Commission for Historical Statues Approves Model of Forthcoming Barbara Rose Johns Statue for U.S. Capitol

Christian Home School historical marker dedication

State Historical Marker for the Christian Home School Dedicated in Town of Smithfield

DHR Administers Easement Over Revolutionary War Battlefield Land in City of Chesapeake