VA Landmarks – Interactive Map

  1. Buchanan Swinging Bridge

The Buchanan Swinging Bridge is named after the city it’s located in, Buchanan, Virginia. The bridge we see today was formerly built as a covered bridge until it was burned down by Confederates in 1864, destroyed by a James River flood in 1877, and then replaced by its current structure type in 1937. The current structure type is properly known as a pedestrian swinging bridge, which resembles the mechanics and style of a suspension bridge. 

The decking and side railing of the bridge is made from wood and wire. The bridge’s compression and tension are supported by the cables that mount the decking, the wooden deck bracings, and the under the bridge is the compressive support of a stone pier. A fun fact about the stone pier, is parts of the foundational support was built with the original bridge in 1851! Due to its age, the bridge can handle a max of 3 people, and the bridge shouldn’t be swayed or it could fail. 

  1. Patowmack Canal and Locks

The Patowmack Canal and Locks is a historic location that consists of five unused canals: Little Falls, Great Falls, Seneca Falls (across from Seneca Creek), Payne’s Falls of the Shenandoah, and House Falls, (near Harpers Ferry, Virginia, now in the state of West Virginia). The Patowmack Canal and Locks was introduced and led by the great George Washington. Washington’s main purpose of this project was to make an efficient trade connection between the Ohio River Valley and the East Coast. The trade connection was focused on leveraging the Potomac River. Washington shared this purpose with his political colleagues in Virginia and Maryland, which led to the creation of the Patowmack Company in 1785. He served as the president of this company, until becoming the first President of the United States in 1789. Unfortunately, due to the complications of keeping the company’s finances afloat, the locks of the Great Falls Canal closed in 1828. 

When visiting this location, the most popular canal to visit is the Great Falls in Northern Virginia. According to Wikipedia, three of the five canals didn’t require the use of locks. According to ASCE, the construction of the Patowmack Canal and Locks jumpstarted the market trend for canal construction; which in correlation helped with the growth of early America. 

  1. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse

The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This lighthouse was designed by a pioneering American architect named John McComb, Jr. of New York City. This project was commissioned to McComb by the First U.S. Congress, and the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was the first construction project to be funded by the Federal Government. According to ASCE, this construction led to the federal government’s investment allocation to civil engineering projects across the United States. 

The construction of the first Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was completed in October 1792, 3 years after being authorized to build by the First Congress. This structure was constructed with the natural material of Aquia and Rappahannock sandstone. The final cost of the original lighthouse was $17,700 ($479,797.22 in present value). The second lighthouse, on the right of the original, was built in 1881 due to the first lighthouse dealing with cracking conditions and safety hazards. The second lighthouse’s structure was made with cast and wrought iron. The first lighthouse stands at 90ft tall and the second lighthouse stands at 157ft tall. The second structure is the lighthouse in use to help signal arriving ships; the light signaling is orchestrated through the use of a first-order Fresnel lens. This is the only lighthouse on the Virginia coast that uses the first-order Fresnel lens. 

  1. Dismal Swamp Canal

The Dismal Swamp Canal partially separates the states of Virginia and North Carolina. This canal stretches from Southmill Locks, Virginia to Deep Creek Locks, North Carolina at a distance of 22 miles. Construction of this waterway was led by the Dismal Swamp Canal Company and started in 1793 & was completed in 1805. The dimensions of this historic canal is 50 ft wide and ~9 ft depth

The purpose of this canal was to stimulate the trade between Virginia and North Carolina, which in correlation helped with the significant “canal boom” in the late 18th to 19th century. After completion, the Dismal Swamp Canal efficiently served its purpose through the transportation of building and agricultural products from NC to VA. According to ASCE, this canal helped with the construction of America’s first dry dock port in Norfolk, VA. The Dismal Swamp Canal hasn’t been in use for its sole purpose since the 20th century. As of now, this is the oldest surviving artificial waterway of continuous use in the United States. It’s currently being maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers for the specific reason of recreational boating. 

  1. Gosport Naval Dry Docks

The Gosport Naval Dry Docks, currently known as the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, is a cornerstone of American history. Originally in 1767, the Gosport Naval Dry Docks was ruled by the Royal Navy of the British until the American Revolution and destroyed in 1779. To facilitate the growth of the US Federal Government and their military, they bought the Gosport Naval Dry Docks from Virginia in 1801. In 1827, the federal government funded the creation of the first two dry docks at the Gosport; making it the first dry docks ever in the United States. The construction of these docks unfortunately leveraged the use of “enslaved labor.” During the conflict of the Civil War, the Confederates owned the dry docks, but then destroyed it when abandoning it in 1862. The Union took back the location and carried it forward with the name of the Norfolk Naval Yard. 

Into the 20th century, the Gosport Naval Dry Docks morphed into the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, served as the Homeport of the Hampton Roads Region, and took on the tasks of ship building and stationing. The World Wars led to the expanding use of this location, which in correlation helped with the local economy of the Peninsula. Following World War II, the shipyard shifted to their current purpose of overhaul and repair for the various ships, submarines, & carriers owned by the U.S. Navy.  

  1. High Bridge

The High Bridge stretches over the Appomattox River, and is specifically located near Farmville in Prince Edward County, Virginia. This bridge was designed and constructed by C.O. Sanford in 1853, as a railroad bridge. The original build of the High Bridge was created with 20 supports that were made with approximately 4 million bricks, and it supported the span of a wooden superstructure that helped with the travel of steamtrains, wagon traffic, and pedestrians. The High Bridge was a part of the railing transportation route between Petersburg and Lynchburg. Unfortunately during the Civil War in 1865, the Confederates partially burned down the superstructure during General Robert E. Lee’s retreat towards the Appomattox Courthouse. 

During the rebuilding of the High Bridge, Confederate General William “Billy” Mahone and the South Side Railroad erected the use of a 2418 ft by 125 ft 2-span Fink deck truss in 1869. But ordered by the owners, Northern & Western, the spans of the Fink deck truss was replaced , span-by-span, with a Pratt deck truss in 1914 by the Virginia Bridge & Iron Company. Following this rebuild, Northern & Western joined the current Norfolk Southern Railway system which led to the downgrading & abandoning of the High Bridge in the 20th century. According to Farmville’s city website, the High Bridge was donated to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2006. The bridge was opened to the public in 2012, as a “rail to trail” civilian attraction.