State Historical Highway Marker “James River Steam Brewery” To Be Dedicated in Henrico Co., Sunday, Nov. 17

Published November 13, 2019
Cellar interior
Under ground cellar.

The brewery, built in 1866, closed by 1879, was destroyed by fire in 1891, except for extensive underground cellars

The marker text is reproduced below

A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (DHR) will be dedicated later this month that highlights the founding and brief history of James River Steam Brewery, a five-story facility and beer garden built in 1866 during a national boom in beer production.

The dedication and unveiling ceremony for the marker will begin at 1 p.m., Sunday, November 17, at the marker’s location near where the brewery stood along the west side of present-day Old Osborne Turnpike (Route 5) between Orleans Street and Rocketts Way. The ceremony is open to the public.

Speakers at the ceremony will include Lee Graves, president of Richmond Beeristoric, a nonprofit organization that sponsored the marker; Mike Gorman, a historian and member of Richmond Beeristoric; and Matt Gottlieb of DHR.

After it opened, James River Steam Brewery “contributed to Richmond’s post-Civil War industrial recovery,” the marker states, “and its beer garden served as a community center.”

The brewery was partly owned by David G. Yuengling Jr., the oldest son of the founder of D. G. Yuengling and Son in Pennsylvania, considered today the nation’s oldest continuously operating brewery, according to the marker.

Brewery complex as it appeared in 1866 photograph
The brewery in 1866.

James River brewery used steam-powered equipment and featured an extensive underground warehouse for storage and fermentation. Although an 1891 fire destroyed the main building, its cellars survive. Today the site is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places.

The “James River Steam Brewery” marker was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers.

As sponsor of the marker, Richmond Beeristoric covered its manufacturing costs.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently, there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority.

[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]

Text of marker:

James River Steam Brewery

Nearby stood the James River Steam Brewery, built in 1866 during a national boom in beer production. The five-story facility contributed to Richmond’s post-Civil War industrial recovery, and its beer garden served as a community center. David G. Yuengling Jr., part-owner, was the oldest son of the founder of D. G. Yuengling and Son in Pennsylvania, now considered the nation’s oldest continuously operating brewery. The James River brewery featured steam-powered equipment and an extensive underground warehouse or “lager” for storage and fermentation. The business closed by 1879 in the aftermath of a national economic crisis. A fire in 1891 destroyed the main building, but the cellars survive.

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