There are several walking trails at Pump House Park and they connect many interesting historical features, the most famous of which is the Lower Arch, which is still intact and very much worth preservation and restoration. Here is the story behind George Washington’s Lower Arch as printed on a sign at the park:
George Washington Ate Here
The granite structure below, called “The Lower Arch,” is the grand (western) entrance to the main section of the James River Canal. Built in 1786 with slave labor, it regulated water flow into the canal allowing large, flat-bottomed cargo boats (called bateaux) to enter from the James River.
(Look carefully and you can see that a crack has developed. The wooden foundation beams have rotted at the southeast corner after exposure during a drought.)
How it Worked
There were actually two sections of the canal connected by flatwater portion of river.
Water entered the lower section of the river through this arch and flowed eastward three miles to downtown Richmond.
The upper section of the canal was located two miles west. It was only 200 yards long and bypassed a section of rapids called Westham Falls — opposite Pony Pasture Rapids Park today.
George Washington stopped at this arch during his 1791 tour of Virginia when he was president of the canal company.
Attended by a livery of servants dressed in red satin uniforms, he waited under the arch for a delegation of Richmond City Council members to join him for lunch. They arrived late and Washington dined alone.
The Lower Arch is the only surviving structure of the James River Canal System. The stone wall below you was built in the late 1830s to hold up the high embankment of the Kanawha Canal towpath located to your right. The railroad was laid in the towpath in 1880. It was moved to its present location, on a man-made ridge beside the river, in 1901 to accomodate a second set of tracks.