Rocketts Landing's vibrant riverfront community has been around since 2007. But, our neighborhood's connection to Richmond and the James River is much older — and we love the history pulsing underneath and within our community every day! So, we've decided to dissect and share some of the stories with you in a two-part blog showcasing the unique history that helps to make Rocketts Landing who we are today.
Rocketts Landing in its very early days of colonization.
Back in 1607, just days after Christopher Newport landed at Jamestown, he decided to head up the James River to explore where it would take him — hoping, eventuy, to find a pass toward the Pacific Ocean. Instead, he landed the Godspeed at the present-day location of Rocketts Landing and found a thriving Native American village in the center of the Powhatan Confederacy. Two years later, Captain John Smith, who was taken by the land's charm, purchased the area and renamed it "Nonesuch." The fertile land and riverfront proximity made it a prime location for English settlers to relocate and start their life in the New World.
By the end of the 17th century, after becoming a successfully established British colony, Nonesuch was a thriving commercial port.
In 1730, colonist Robert Rocketts established a ferry service for transporting goods at the riverfront village. His ferry connected the north and south sides of the James River, and united bustling commercial operations. The ferry was a success, and the village quickly filled with merchants and tenant laborers who built thriving neighborhoods and businesses. In fact, Rocketts Landing became one of America's busiest inland ports! And one of Richmond's oldest, still-standing houses, the Woodward House(which is just down the street from our community), is one of the few original remnants of this era at Rocketts Landing.
View of Rocketts Landing and the James River from Libby Hill. Photo taken between 1861 and 1865.
As the commercial port grew, so did Rocketts Landing's population! This growth was spurred not only by colonists, but also due to the many free black residents and immigrants from Germany, Scotland and Ireland that settled at Rocketts Landing between 1790 and 1830. The port's continued success developed the community into a globy important seaport. Rocketts Landing connected Richmond via the James River to Philadelphia, New York and Charleston, as well as many South American and European ports, transporting two of RVA's most popular exports: tobacco and flour.
View of Richmond, Virginia, from Rocketts Landing, April 1865.
Captured Confederate artillery line the docks at Rocketts Landing, 1865.
In 1607, English colonists came ashore at the site below the falls of the James River opening Central Virginia for settlement. As a crossroads for colonial commerce, this land became an integral part of America's history before it degenerated into an industrial brownfield. Now, the 54-acre site is in the midst of a reawakening once again brought to life to make and impact where people once again gather to make history with a mile long riverfront park and marinas that provide community open space. The Capital Trail connects Richmond with Williamsburg and winds through the park.
This project included extensive work with community workshops and visioning, and focus groups. Through a process of environmental remediation and extensive public participation. Burrell Saunders of SCA developed a master plan that lays the foundation for village life and SCA continues to work with WKS Development of Rockett's Village Development. The $500 million village - with 2,000 residences, 500,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, a hotel, and a private marina - resurrects one of the city's oldest most significant districts. A canal even flows up to the marina creating a permanent downtown waterfront.
Today, Rocketts Landing begins a new era of activity, welcoming new residents exactly 400 years after its discovery.