What is: The old steel mill wheel at the front of Tredegar iron works which is today the main visitor center for the Richmond National Battlefield Park and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.
What was: the iron works plant in Richmond opened in 1837 by a group of businessmen and industrialists who sought to capitalize on the Transportation Revolution. Tredegar operated on hydro power by harnessing the James River and the canal. The plant employed skilled domestic and foreign workers as well as slaves and free blacks. By 1860 it was the largest facility of its kind in the South – a contributing factor to the choice of Richmond as the capital of the confederacy.
It produced the steel for the first Confederate ironclad ship, as well as about half of the artillery production. It also manufactured steam locomotives, rail spikes and clamps. The iron works is one of the few Civil War era buildings that survived the burning of Richmond.
Tredegar began producing again by the end of 1865. By 1873 it employed 1,200 workers and was profitable business. The financial panic of 1873 hit the company hard and it did not make the transition to steel. The Tredegar company remained in business throughout the first half of the 20th century, and supplied requirements of the armed forces of the United States during World War I and World War II.
The company name Tredegar derives from the Welsh industrial town that supplied much of the company’s early workforce.