Founded in 1837, Tredegar Iron Works became the largest iron works in the South, mostly from casting railroad iron and cannons. A major reason for locating the capital of the Confederacy at Richmond was to be near Tredegar, and a Tredegar cannon fired the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. Tredegar produced nearly 1200 cannons for the Confederacy and cast the iron plating for the CSS Virginia , the first Confederate ironclad.

At its height, Tredegar employed nearly 800 free and enslaved workers. During the Civil War the number of African-American workers - both free and enslaved - increased to 75% of the workforce as white men joined the Confederate army. African-American men handled the skilled ironworking jobs of blacksmith, boatman, and teamster.

After the Civil War Tredegar produced ammunition for the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. The iron works closed in 1986 as the market for steel expanded and the market for iron diminished.

The American Civil War Center is located in the Gun Foundry at Tredegar Iron Works. The Center features an interactive Civil War exhibit, museum and gift shop. The Richmond National Battlefield Park visitor center is located in the Pattern Building. Here they have exhibits and park rangers to provide information about touring nearby Civil War battlefields. A self-guided outdoor walking tour of Tredegar Iron Works takes you past five original buildings, as well as ruins, artifacts, vintage machinery, and a reconstruction of an overshot water wheel used to power the foundry and machine shop.

Pictured at the top: Weighing 40 tons, the Toledo 1000-ton press straightened iron and steel parts at the Tredegar Iron Works.

tredegar iron works visitor center

Today, Tredegar Iron Works is home to the Richmond National Battlefield Park Civil War Visitor Center and the American Civil War Center.

Historical Photo

tredegar iron works 1865

[Richmond, Va. View of the Tredegar Iron Works, with footbridge to Neilson's Island] Alexander Gardner, 1865 (Library of Congress)