Richmond Historical Locations: Belle Isle

Posted by Brandon Jarvis





Belle Isle was originally known as Broad Rock Island. It was first explored by Captain John Smith in 1607. In the 18th century the island was occupied by a fishery. In 1814, the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company completed a nail factory. During the 1860s, the island was inhabited by a village complete with a school, church, and general store.

The abandoned pump house at Belle Isle

Belle Isle is a small (540-acre (2.2 km2)) island in the city of Richmond, Virginia. Belle Island lies within the James River, and being owned by the city it serves as a city park. It is accessible to pedestrian and bicycle traffic via a suspension footbridge that runs under the Robert E. Lee Bridge from the northern shore of the James. Except when the water level of the James is high, it is also reachable by foot from the southern shore via easy by either boulder-hopping or walking across a second newer bridge.  The southern bridge makes the Island accessible for emergency vehicles. From Belle Isle, one can see Hollywood Cemetery, the old Tredegar Iron Works, and Richmond City’s skyline. Belle Isle has many bike trails around the island, and has a small cliff used for rock climbing instruction.

Belle Isle

“Belle Isle was originally known as Broad Rock Island. It was first explored by Captain John Smith in 1607. In the 18th century the island was occupied by a fishery. In 1814, the Old Dominion Iron and Nail Company completed a nail factory. During the 1860s, the island was inhabited by a village complete with a school, church, and general store.”

Between 1607 and 1609, Englishman John Smith and a small crew of adventurers set out in an open boat to explore the Chesapeake Bay. Smith mapped and documented nearly 3,000 miles of the bay and its rivers in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Along the way, they visited many thriving Native American communities and gathered information about this “fruitful and delightsome land,” according to Richmond Times-Dispatch archives.

 

 

Virtual Tour

Belle Isle is a majestic work of nature that has life changing views.  Belle Isle is a real island that is surrounded by the James River.  You can see the historic Hollywood Cemetery from the North Side and you can get a breathtaking view of the Richmond Skyline if you look east.  The island has rock climbing, ponds, and bike trails.  Check out our virtual tour below and make sure you visit this historic destination as soon as you can!

 





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