Discovered centuries ago. Rediscovered every day.
The history of Rocketts Landing as a community pre-dates colonial times. In 1607, Captain Christopher Newport headed up the James River to explore the new world. He landed his ship,
the Godspeed, right on this site, where he found a thriving Native American village in the center of the Powhatan Confederacy.
A century later, in 1730, Robert Rocketts began operating a ferry service that transported goods to our riverfront. The site grew into a lively and bustling riverfront town – in fact, at one point, this very place was once considered the busiest inland port in America.
When the Civil War erupted both banks of the James transformed into a navy yard, home to warships and torpedo vessels known as the James River Squadron. On April 2, 1865, the navy yard and its ships succumbed to the same fire that destroyed downtown Richmond. Two days later, Abraham Lincoln came ashore at Rocketts Landing to tour the city, which still smoldered in the distance.
Much of our history can still be experienced. In 1866, David G. Yuengling founded the James River Brewery at Rocketts. The brewery closed in 1879, but its cavern entrances can be still be seen from our Old Main Street. Also on site, the Richmond Cedar Works Manufacturing Co., now home to condos, created ice-cream makers, ice chests and other household items from 1884 to 1967. And the Boathouse Restaurant is built around the 1887 Power Plant building. This building powered Richmond’s trolley system, which ran from 1888 to 1949.
As industry waned, the neighborhood did as well. But a turning point came in January of 2005, when the WVS Companies purchased Rocketts Landing from Bill Abeloff, the man who helped renew the Shockoe Bottom area in the 1970s and 1980s, and paved the way for the first Tobacco Row apartments in 1991. The vision was to revive Richmond’s eastern riverfront much like Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Ask any resident, and they’ll most likely say we’ve succeeded.