On Sunday, July 12, the Historical Society in cooperation with the Goochland YMCA held a history walk at the site of the old James River Correctional Center, known to long time Goochlanders as the “State Farm”. Thirty walkers showed up in what turned out to be wonderful weather to tour some of the oldest buildings on the prison grounds and as a bonus, we got to take a trip to the old brick foundry.
After a welcome and introduction by Society President, Wayne Dementi, Warden Jeff Dillman and Assistant Warden Nikki Linamen took over the group. They told about the founding of the prison in Goochland and gave details about the different Wardens, Surgeons and activities from the earliest period through to the closure as a State Penitentiary.
Next, the group was led into the Chapel which was completed in 1914. The cruciform building is now a shell, but the slag glass windows and one stained glass window remain. This building and several others on the prison grounds are now used by the movie industry as sets standing in for various prisons around the country.
We were then led into the old cell block. This beautiful building with a clock tower conceals rows of bunk beds that were used into this century to house prisoners. Today, some of the beds are still in place for use by the movie industry while other portions have been cleaned out.
We also got a look at the former exercise yard which still has weight benches set up seemingly waiting to be used again by incarcerated persons. We also got a look at an older building just off the yard which is also still set up as a movie set.
As a special treat, the Warden and Assistant Warden led us down the hill to the site of the brick foundry. This site dates back to the founding of the prison and produced brick until the 1950’s. Some of the bricks produced went to the sidewalks and reconstruction at Colonial Williamsburg among other places. Three large kilns still stand with their arched roofs intact. It was quite a site and several in the crowd of walkers couldn’t resist going inside the large buildings where they were treated to the oculus in the top of the dome.
This was a wonderful adventure for all that attended. The Society would like to thank Warden Jeffrey Dillman and Assistant Warden Nikki Linamen for their research on the site and presentation to the attendees. They were excellent tour guides around a beautiful place with it’s interesting history.