RICHMOND, Va. – Take a left turn off Pump House Drive and you’ll see a 135-year-old building that looks a bit like an old church, peering out at the James River between two historic canals
“Your breath is taken away just by looking at it, cause it doesn’t fit,” said Max Ewart. “It doesn’t seem like it should be there, but it is and that’s exciting."
Ewart is with the group "Friends of Pump House,” who work to preserve the artchitecutrual treasure known as the The Byrd Park Pump House. Sometimes called the New Pump House, it was used between 1893 and 1924 to help get Richmond its water.
Recently the "Friends of Pump House" and the James River Park System started offering historic tours inside the Gothic building. This Saturday, February 10, they'll be hosting a cleanup outside the building that starts at 9 a.m., followed by tours inside between noon and 3 p.m.
"We start at the western door and we go all the way through the building,” said Lyn Lanier, also known as "Mr. Pump House" for his wealth of information. He is happy to give tours and rather take visitors around himself, than to have them trespass.
"It’s almost a constant battle with people staying out of the building that have no regard for the building,” he said. “We have metal pieces sticking up here, you trip and lose your balance you could wind up impaled and if you’re in here by yourself, ain’t nobody coming to help.”
Beyond pumping water from the river to the Byrd Park reservoir, Wilfred E. Cutshaw, the Richmond city engineer behind the Pump House, wanted to incorporate a social aspect into the building as well.
The second floor was designed for social occasions and hosted several dances. Ewart says it doesn't seem to fit.
"I remember my first time when I came here and it just blew me away,” he said. “I didn’t expect it.”
The building has certainly seen better days, but Ewart and the "Friends of Pump House" are working to bring it back to life. “
Our goal is to make this place usable again,” he said. “We need to get some big donors.” “We need to apply for some sizeable grants to the point where we can accomplish some of these larger projects that will help us take those steps to getting a certificate of occupancy so people can use it.”
“It would have been very easy for the city to come in and just demolish this building and not thought twice about it,” he said. “We’re really lucky this building still stands.” For more information on tours and how you can help, visit https://www.friendsofpumphouse.org/ and
Written by photographer Chris Jenkins.