The Power of Preservation for People and Places – Pump House


We are excited to be partnering with the Friends of the Pump House and the City of Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation to develop preservation solutions for the Byrd Park Pump House! Our work is intended to revitalize the Pump House as the centerpiece of the City’s James River Park System and reflects the convergence of preservation, conservation, education and environmental goals that we and many others have championed.

The Byrd Park Pump House, also known as the New Pump-House, was completed 1881 to pump water from the James River and Kanawha Canal into a reservoir in nearby Byrd Park. Both the reservoir and the Pump House were designed and constructed by Wilfred Emory Cutshaw, Richmond’s city engineer from 1873 to 1907. A beautifully executed example of Gothic Revival architecture, the Pump House contained the pump works on the lower level and an open air social pavilion on the upper floor. The construction of the Pump House reflected a notable advancement in Richmond’s drinking water infrastructure. In operation until 1924, the building has deteriorated over the years.

Several decades ago, working with the City, Historic Richmond sought to raise awareness and funding to develop a preservation plan for the Pump House. Today, Historic Richmond is renewing its efforts to revitalize the Pump House to facilitate greater access for diverse visitors to and through the James River Park System and the James River and to educate school children and visitors on the history, natural resources and conservation aspects of the Park and the James River. These are important goals and objectives outlined in the 2019 James River Park System Master Plan adopted in January 2020.

A number of committed groups have come together in recent years to focus on the Pump House. In 2018, the City of Richmond engaged Timmons Group and 3north to develop a Schematic Design document for renovation of the Byrd Park Pump House and its surrounding area for the Department of Parks and Recreation. During the schematic design process, we participated in a charrette, a public design forum, and were appreciative of the opportunity to review and comment on the plan prepared by 3north and Timmons Group.

Over the past year, we are delighted to have worked closely with the Friends of the Pump House, whose volunteers have been providing maintenance and advocating for the historic structure, and the City of Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation to address some urgent repairs. This fall, we funded an emergency repair of a falling archway in the Pump House with the help of a generous bequest from Mrs. Elisabeth Reed Carter, a passionate supporter of preserving Richmond’s unique and authentic historic places. We are grateful to The Trent Corporation for completing the repairs despite the pandemic related closures. Before and after photos of the archway are shown below. In addition, the Friends of the Pump House have begun a phased window repair project.

Falling archway, before repair

During repair of fallen archway

Archway repair completed

Working with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Friends of the Pump House, we are in the planning stages for a preservation project focused on roof repairs, repairs to facilitate better use of the open air social pavilion on the second floor, and accessibility. This project is significant in many respects, although it reflects a smaller scale, more incremental approach than that envisioned by the 3north/Timmons study. Once completed, it will allow regular and more frequent use of the large open air social pavilion, an educational space uniquely suited to the COVID world and to environmental education. We are grateful to the late Elisabeth Reed Carter and her family for their support to implement this vision. Above all, we are grateful that there are so many committed volunteers and staff at the City Department of Parks and Recreation, the Friends of the Pump House, and Historic Richmond who see the power of the Pump House to provide a welcoming, connecting, aspirational and transformative place for the people of Richmond.

Historic Richmond meets with representatives from the Department of Parks and Recreation and Friends of the Pump House at the Pump House

We are excited to continue to strengthen these partnerships and to see renewed interest in the preservation of the Pump House.

Every day, Historic Richmond preserves, protects, and promotes the historic buildings and places that make Richmond unique, beautiful, and authentic.

Your generosity and financial support are vital to sustain Historic Richmond’s preservation, revitalization and advocacy for this and other work at risk properties. We need your help so that buildings and places like this can share their power with generations to come.

We hope you will take this opportunity to re-invest in our important work by making a gift today. We truly could not do it without you!


Stay Up-to-Date with Your City.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.