Scottsville Historic District
Comprised of almost one hundred old buildings, the Scottsville Historic District is a wonderful reminder of 18th and 19th century life in rural Virginia. Almost half of the homes and buildings that remain date to before the Civil War, and tourists can delight in the quiet of the riverfront, or enjoy the small shops and restaurants that continue to serve the residents and visitors to Scottsville. As in the past, life in Scottsville is connected to the James River, just a short stroll from the center of town.
Scottsville was originally called Scott’s Landing, and was named for Edward Scott, a Goochland burgess, who patented 550 acres just west of the eventual borders of the town. Scottsville served as a local ferry crossing and river port for batteaux transportation on the James River. Batteaux were flat-bottomed boats that could easily navigate the somewhat temperamental and occasionally shallow rivers, including the James and Rivanna.
Between 1744 and 1762, Scott’s Landing served as the county seat before the General Assembly divided up the county and relocated its county seat to Charlottesville. After the county seat was relocated, Scott’s Landing continued to serve as the main river port above Richmond – bateaux owners loaded farm products for trade down river, and unloaded trade goods for the Virginia Valley.
In 1818, the town of Scottsville was incorporated at the northern most flow of the James River, an area known as the Horseshoe Bend. The James River and Kanawha Canal was constructed to improve river transportation and connect Richmond with the Ohio River Valley. The Civil War brought more activity and eventually, destruction to Scottsville.
The James River was a major transportation corridor, bringing supplies and soldiers to the Confederate Government. In the final month of the war, Generals Phillip Sheridan and George Armstrong Custer captured the town and destroyed the canal, making sure to harm anything that would have been helpful to the Confederate cause.
Downtown Scottsville continues to invite visitors to explore this charming small community. A map of the town and a historic walking tour guide is available at the upstairs offices of the Town of Scottsville, 401 Valley Street (Rte. 20). Hours are M-F from 9 to 5; call (434) 286-9267 for more information. The Scottsville Museum is located next to the Historical Society at 290 Main Street in downtown Scottsville. The museum is open 10 am -5 pm on Saturday and 1 pm - 5 pm on Sunday--also open on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day or by appointment; call (434) 296-2247 for hours and information.
The newest addition to the downtown area is Canal Basin Square, a public park featuring replicas of different types of batteaux and interpretive signs highlighting the role of these unique boats in the history of Scottsville.