Bellona Arsenal Workshop, HABS Photo
|Location||Off VA 673, northwest of the junction with VA 147, Midlothian, Virginia|
|Area||100 acres (40 ha)|
|NRHP reference #||71000975|
|Added to NRHP||May 6, 1971|
|Designated VLR||January 5, 1971|
With William Wirt (Attorney General), experienced armorer Major John Clarke established his Bellona Foundry on the south shore of the James River, 14 miles above Richmond, Virginia, in 1810. Transportation along the James River, nearby coal mines, pig iron furnaces in the valleys upstream of the city, and access to markets downstream allowed the development of early industry in Virginia, an otherwise almost entirely agrarian state. The ruins of the original Foundry building still stand. The Foundry manufactured weaponry for the War Department.
Major Clarke instrumentally arranged for the location of a federal arsenal immediately to the west of Bellona Foundry. The Army erected Bellona Arsenal in 1816 and named it for Bellona (goddess). The Arsenal received and stored cannon from the Foundry from 1817. People constructed several buildings in Foundry and Arsenal throughout its first several years. Stone walls enclosed eight buildings surrounding the quadrangle at the Arsenal; these buildings included a three-story main arsenal building at the north end with a projecting pavilion and circular third-story windows, two quarters for officers flanking the arsenal, four workshops on the east and west sides of the quadrangle, and a three-story barracks building on the south end. The similar brick workshop buildings lack foundations, and each have two stories with hipped roofs and interior end chimneys. Two smaller workshops contain three bays each with central entrances and segmental arched openings; the larger workshop building has a five-bay facade.
The low rectangular powder magazine with walls five and a half feet thick stood to the west of the quadrangle buildings; a stone wall surrounding the magazine protected the quadrangle buildings against possible explosion. This powder magazine survives sans roof.
Bellona Foundry supplied much ordnance to the Army and Navy of the United States throughout the antebellum period. The Arsenal repaired small arms and engaged in a few other functions until 1832; thereafter, it only received and stored cannons. The Army removed the garrison to Fort Monroe in 1833 but left a single ordnance sergeant as a caretaker.
In 1837, the War Department declared disused Bellona Arsenal surplus. Thomas Randolph and a partner leased several buildings for a silkworm farm.
Major Clarke died in 1844, and Bellona Foundry then passed to Doctor Junius L. Archer, who leased a residence from the Arsenal complex. In 1856, Doctor Archer purchased Bellona Arsenal from the federal government for a mere $2650.
American Civil War
Bellona Arsenal and the somewhat larger Tredegar Iron Works served the Virginia militia and the Confederate military well in manufacturing cannons and similar armaments. Doctor Archer leased both Arsenal and Foundry to the Confederate States and retained a job as Superintendent of the complex. Bellona ranked second as a producer of Confederate armaments.
The owners tore down the barracks, quarters for officers, and one workshop in 1872; only three workshops of the original eight quadrangle buildings (and the powder magazine) survived at the old Bellona Arsenal. They sold the arsenal property in 1877.
The property changed hands several times; in 1942, Mr. M. C. Luck purchased the surviving buildings and began to renovate them. He later converted them into residences.
On 6 May 1971, National Register of Historic Places listings in Chesterfield County, Virginia, added Bellona Arsenal. It now lies off SR 673 northwest of its junction with VA 147 near Midlothian, Virginia.