Friday, August 12, 2011

Belle Isle bridge - 1972

For years I wondered about the remains of the old bridge to Belle Isle on it's north side...was it a train bridge? The section that remains today led me to believe it was. But my discovery of this picture last year proved otherwise. It was, at least in 1972, a bridge for cars and trucks. And a pretty damn rickety looking one at that.

In the distance, as in this picture from a few months ago, you can see the heavy industry that was still active on Belle Isle at the time, including (according to the sign), Old Dominion Iron and Steel as well as Adamson Co. Inc.

Note the old Lee Bridge in the distance on the right (it wasn't torn down until the late 1980s), and the fairly massive structure behind the bridge that's nearly hidden. The skeletal remains of part of this building still remain today on Belle Isle. Parts of the stone foundation of this bridge still exist in the James River today, although a few have been washed away.

Click the photo below for the high resolution image.

Photo courtesy of VCU Libraries


  1. The piers look pretty old in the picture. Makes me think they carried a different bridge at some point And were repurposed for this vehicle bridge.

  2. It seems that the flood that Resulted from hurricane Agnes in 1972 might have done some serious damage to the bridge. You can still see steel on the bottom of Tredegar pool that I assume may be from this, but could be from the old Lee bridge.

  3. This bridge was originally the northern span of the Richmond and Danville Railroad Company's Belle Isle Tredegar Branch. By its completion in the 1870's (it's shown complete on my 1876 Richmond map), it connected the railroad's Manchester tracks to Richmond's 8th Street rail yard via a trestle across Belle Isle and through Tredegar Iron Works. Before that, only the southern span existed, and the tracks ended on Belle Isle where, beginning in 1851, it serviced the Belle Isle Manufacturing Company (later known as Old Dominion Iron and Nail Works). In 1945 the name was changed to Old Dominion Iron and Steel Corporation. Eventually a fire destroyed the northern span, and the vehicular bridge (shown in this photo) was later built on the original piers. Old Dominion was acquired by Adamson Company Inc. in 1966. They moved to Chester after the flooding from Tropical Storm Agnes damaged the plant and destroyed this bridge.

    On a personal note, In the late 1960's or early 1970's, I crossed this bridge in the backseat of a police car.

    1. For anyone interested, I threw together a quick webpage with some photos, old maps, and a few links to more detailed information at:

      (If this link isn't clickable in your browser, you can copy & paste it into the address bar.)

    2. Amazing...Thanks for all the info and pictures!

  4. We use to walk across that bridge when I was growing up on Oregon Hill. We watched it get washed away during a flood from hurricane camille. We were sitting on the grass in Oregon Hill Park when it happened.

  5. My Dad used to work for Adamson/ODIS in the early 70s. I used to have to cross this bridge to pick him up from work occasionally. It was only wide enough for 1 vehicle at a time and the steel superstructure limited the size of steel tanks that could be sold by the plant. When a hurricane took the bridge out, ODIS installed a cable barge to reach the island. It made it a little more cumbersome to get to work, but now they could ship much larger tanks! It wasn't too many years later the plant relocated to southside and the property was acquired by the city..