Tag Archives: Lock-Keeper’s House

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.


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.


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.

The Lock-Keepers House at Cedar Point

16 Nov

The Lock-Keeper’s House, circa 1836, is the last remaining lock-keeper’s house from the James River and Kanawha Canal system.  Located on Cedar Point Road in Goochland, the little building is a reminder of a time when the river was the fastest way to reach Richmond and the world.


Personally surveyed and planned by George Washington, The James River and Kanawha Canal began in 1785 to ease shipments of passengers and goods from the interior of Virginia to the coast.  After a series of financial difficulties, the Commonwealth of Virginia took over and in March of 1832, the James River and Kanawha Canal Company was formed to extend the canal to the Ohio River.  By 1836 a lock was needed to move the traffic around the rocks at Cedar Point so Lock Number 7 was constructed.  The Lock-Keeper’s house was built alongside the lock for toll collection, invoice and cargo checking and as a tavern for the passengers of canal boats.  The house was in use for these purposes until the late 1800’s when the Richmond and Allegheny Railroad laid tracks on the old towpath of the canal.  Railroads led to an end of the canal era but the house stayed in use as a home for the railroad section masters.  The house was finally sold into the private sector in the 1960’s.


The Cedar Point Lock-Keeper’s house is a two-story frame structure on a stone foundation.  The foundation is whitewashed 18” granite and the upper stories are covered in weatherboard.  The interior is still arranged, as it would have been in the canal era, three stacked rooms to the right and three to the left.  There are two stairways, one at either end of the house.  One was for the lock-keeper and the other was for guests of the tavern.  The top floor is divided into two rooms for overnight accommodations and do not connect.  The easternmost room was for ladies.  The two top rooms were reached by different staircases which allowed the ladies to come and go without having to go through the tavern.


The building has been damaged by floods and hurricanes on several occasions.  Two lines to the left of the basement entrance commemorate two early floods, one marked “30 Sept. 1870” and the other is for 1877.  Hurricane Camille arrived in 1969 with more flooding but the highest level so far would be caused by Hurricane Agnes.  That event in June of 1972 caused the river to rise 15 feet above flood stage causing water to rise 3 feet above the second level floor.  A bronze plaque commemorates Hurricane Agnes’ flood level on the outside of the house.  In November of 1974, the Lock-Keeper’s House was named to the National Register of Historic Places.


The Lock-Keeper’s House is currently listed for sale with Goochland Realty, Inc. realtor Vernell Burton.  The house has been converted to a home and offers a cozy atmosphere and incredible views of the James River.  The Historical Society is hoping that a buyer will keep the home intact for future generations.  If you are interested in purchasing the house, call 804-784-5288.

James River

James River

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

To read more about The Lock-Keeper’s House: read volume 7, No. 1 of the Goochland County Historical Society’s magazine.