Lost Goochland – The Barn Dinner Theater

28 Sep

 

The Barn Rainmaker May 27 1965The Barn Dinner Theater once stood alongside Patterson Avenue where Route 288 is today. The theater, which opened in 1963, was housed in a converted barn and featured a central stage that rose up and down to change scenes. Reservations for the evening would included dinner along with the show. Following the show, the actors would serve dessert to the patrons.

 

The theater featured mostly farce style plays, one particular show, “The Drunkard”, even asked the audience to boo and hiss at the villain and cheer on the hero!

The Drunkard Sept 2 1965

The theater changed owners in 1977 and became the West End Dinner Theater before finally closing in 1980, a victim of changing times. After closing as a theater, the barn became a shop for a period of time. The building was later demolished to make way for road construction. If anyone has memorabilia or photographs of this theater, please contact the society at 804-556-3966 or at goochlandhistory@comcast.net. We would love to be able to better document this long gone Goochland attraction!

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The James River and Kanawha Canal

25 Aug

The James River and Kanawha Canal was to have been the key to Virginia becoming the economic center of the emerging United States in the late 1700’s. The project was envisioned by George Washington who surveyed and planned for the canal. In 1785, the James River Company was formed. A name change would create the James River and Kanawha Canal Company.

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The purpose of the canal was to create a way to ship goods and people inland from Richmond. The hope was to connect the James River with the Kanawha River (in present day West Virginia) that would then connect to the Ohio River, the Mississippi River and finally to the Gulf of Mexico.

The problems began almost immediately. Floods and a shortage of funds hindered progress considerably. By 1790, a seven mile stretch from Richmond to Westham had opened. The War of 1812 caused it to slow as did the construction through the Piedmont’s rocky terrain. In 1820, the Commonwealth of Virginia took over the project and by 1825 the canal had reached Maidens Adventure in Goochland.  By 1851, the canal reached its furthest point, Buchanan, 196.5 miles west of Richmond.

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The Lock-keepers House at Cedar Point

The canal met further delays during the Civil War when goods and people were not moving. Following the Civil War, the final blow to the canal came with the completion of railroad service to the Ohio River. In 1878, the James River and Kanawha Canal Company gave up and sold its towpaths to the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad Company. Turning basins, towpaths, and lock-keepers houses began to disappear with the rise of the locomotive.

Genito Culvert

Genito culvert

Beginning in the late 20th century there was a renewed interest in the old canal. In 1971, a 138 acre James River and Kanawha Canal Historic District was created. Richmond has a Canal Walk that stretches for 1.25 miles and Scottsville has a wonderful Canal exhibit. Goochland has the last remaining Lock-keepers house which was built in 1836 to serve Lock Number 7 at Cedar Point. There are also still a few culverts and aqueducts hidden in the woods along the old towpath which itself can still be seen in several places alongside of River Road West. Possibly one day Goochland itself will have a Canal Park to commemorate the part it once played in Washington’s great vision.

WWI and WWII Scanning Event

19 Jul

FIELD DAY OF THE PAST AND GOOCHLAND HISTORICAL SOCIETY TEAM UP FOR WORLD WAR I AND WORLD WAR II COMMEMORATION

WWI Group

Field Day of the Past and the Goochland Historical Society are teaming up to commemorate the involvement of the United States in World War I and World War II. Both the Historical Society and Field Day will be organizing displays and exhibits remembering America’s presence in the World Wars during the annual Field Day event, scheduled for Sept. 15-19.

As part of this commemoration, Goochland Historical Society and Field Day of the Past are hosting a two-day preservation session, inviting those who have photographs from both war eras to bring their pictures to the Field Day show grounds so they can be scanned and preserved. These sessions are scheduled for Friday, August 18th from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, August 19 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants will retain their original copies but will need to sign permission slips for future use of the images by the non-profit organizations for educational purposes. Photographs can potentially be used in exhibits during the event as well as for any future exhibitions. There will be no charge for this service.

Participants are also invited to bring other artifacts – letters, flags, posters, clothing, military items, etc. which they may consider putting out on short term loan to either or both organizations.

The Field Day of the Past showgrounds are located at 1741 Ashland Rd. (Rt. 623). The photographic sessions will be conducted in the church on the grounds.

For more information contact the Goochland Historical Society at 804-556-3966 or email goochlandhistory@comcast.net or Field Day of the Past at 804-908-1412, email fielddayofthepast@gmail.com or visit the websites at fielddayofthepast.net and goochlandhistory.org.

Field Day

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It’s a fact: Lafayette’s Stop Remembered

30 Jun
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Powell’s Tavern in the 1970’s undergoing restoration.

In 1824, the Marquis de Lafayette was on his way from Richmond to Albemarle County to see is old friend Mr. Thomas Jefferson.

Lafayette’s first stop after leaving Richmond on the River Road (same route you know today) was a lunch stop at Powell’s Tavern located near the eastern line of Goochland (opposite James River Estates). The tavern was first a single clapboard structure constructed about 1770 and still standing. Business prospered and the increase meant expansion for the tavern. A front or second structure was constructed of brick, circa 1820. A narrow passage between the two buildings allowed the carriage to let passengers out under roof – a real first class idea! The distinguished visitor enjoyed a two hour stop over with a “cold collation” served to his party.

At Goochland Courthouse a large crowd awaited his arrival with banners of welcome and a final tribute to the General who saved the young America and gave us freedom and liberty.

There were three levels of public accommodation in those days: ordinaries, taverns, and inns, the latter being the best. The ordinary provided ordinary food for the traveler and waters for horses. Taverns provided food and some bed space. Inns provided food and overnight rooms but one usually shared a room with other tourists. The next tavern up the River Road was George’s Tavern located at the junction of Cartersville Road. The River Road was a winding, steep ups and downs, mud road which followed the river to Scottsville.

(The above is from the “It’s a fact” column that the Goochland County Historical Society contributed to the The Goochland Gazette on October 15, 1987.)

Powell’s Tavern was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Tintypes

10 Jun

tintype

The above photograph of a house is in the Goochland County Historical Society collection. It is undated and unidentified but the process used to create the photograph can at least be identified. It is a tintype, a very popular form of photography that was spanned from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. The peak of popularity was the 1860’s and 1870’s. Today, it is still used to create souvenir pictures at carnivals and theme parks.

Also known as melainotype and ferrotype, tintypes are thin sheets of metal that are coated with chemicals, exposed to light and could be ready in as little as 60 seconds. As with most types of early photography, toxic chemicals were used. The “fixer” for the image on tintypes was usually potassium cyanide, a highly dangerous chemical and deadly poison.

Due to the lack of exposure time, tintypes were the most widely used form of photography of its time. The tintype was very portable and could be housed in ornamental cases, made into jewelry or simply carried around in paper sleeves. They were durable and not prone to breakage like the main competitor process, ambrotype, which is fixed on a glass plate.

Tintypes are very collectible today and the Society has a few that are very beautiful. If anyone can identify the house or its location, please let us know.

March Meeting – Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

31 Mar

 

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President Scott Johnson welcomes guests

On March 12, 2017, the society held its first meeting of the year at the Grace Church Parish House. President Scott Johnson welcomed the attendees after which Vice-President Bruce Venter introduced our guest speaker Jeffrey Nichols, CEO and President of Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. Poplar Forest, located south of Lynchburg, was the home Thomas Jefferson built to get away from everyday life at Monticello. Mr. Nichols explained to the group about the restoration efforts past, present and future for the site. A slide show and lively discussion kept everyone’s attention.

 

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Jeffrey Nichols

The Hospitality Committee lead by Louise Thompson prepared a wonderful selection of snacks for all to sample after the discussion.

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Thank you to Jeffrey Nichols for visiting with us and to all of the society members who helped bring this meeting to our members.

 

Drunken Swine

12 Mar

The following is an article that ran on March 31, 1922 in The Bee (Danville, Virginia). It gives a totally new meaning to March madness.

Pig And Hogs In Goochland Drunk On 9,000 Gallons.

Richmond, March 31, – Pouring of 9,000 gallons of mash into a spring branch in Goochland county, near Irwin Station, yesterday afternoon by federal prohibition agents provided a feasta [sic] for more than a score of hogs and pigs. But after partaking of the mash, which had practically completed fermentation, the hogs displayed all the symptoms of drunkenness and were unable to walk. They crawled off into the woods and lay on the ground groaning, federal agents said, in much the same manner as a man under the influence of liquor.

In the raid the officers destroyed a 500-gallon capacity wooden kettle, confiscated a four-horsepower steam engine, 30 fermenters, 1,500 pounds of sugar, one horse, one mule, a new two-horse wagon and other equipment.

The plant was not in actual operation at the time of the raid and no arrests were made. It was located on an excellent site adjacent to a spring branch and was one of the few captured in Virginia that used steam engines for distilling the mash.