I never mentioned my reason for being stuck on Interstate 95 the other day except for a brief reference to an overnight trip to Richmond, Virginia. My younger son participates on a travel soccer team and they played in a tournament over the Veterans Day weekend. We don’t get 3-day weekends anymore. They’re all consumed by tournaments. My older son has no interest in any of this whatsoever and sometimes he gets a reprieve. That explained why the two of us went county counting in West Virginia over the Columbus Day weekend. However, this time all four of us went to Richmond.
Anyway, let’s switch directions and talk about General Winfield Scott for awhile because he figured into this too.
Winfield Scott by Fredricks, 1862
Photo on Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain
Scott served in the United States Army longer than just about anyone else, ever. His career stretched all the way from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, some 53 years. "Old Fuss and Feathers" — as his troops called him — spent most of that time at the rank of General including two decades as Commanding General. He achieved his greatest victories in the Mexican–American War. He also took a shot at becoming President as the Whig Party candidate in 1852. Many historians considered him the greatest American military commander of his generation.
Setting all those momentous achievements aside, one tangential factor set the stage for my weekend sojourn: Winfield Scott married Maria DeHart Mayo in 1817. Her father, Colonel John Mayo, happened to be one of the wealthiest men in Virginia as well as a former mayor of Richmond. Thus, Col. Mayo provided quite a nice dowry when Maria and Winfield married, a 600-acre estate on the northwestern edge of Richmond. It remained in the family until the early 20th Century when developers purchased it and the City of Richmond annexed it. At that time it got its name, Scott’s Addition, for the obvious reasons.
Scott’s Addition Historic District
Originally envisioned as a residential area, it flourished instead as an industrial park due to its proximity to rail lines and highways. According to the National Park Service’s description of the Scott’s Addition Historic District,
The area remained largely undeveloped until the early 1900s, when it saw the construction of modest dwellings and businesses. A second wave of development occurred between the 1930s and 1950s with the building of large industrial plants, commercial buildings, and warehouses amongst the existing dwellings. The second phase of development largely defines the types of buildings located at present in the district.
Business included a factory for the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), a Coca-Cola bottling plant, and a Chevrolet parts depot and warehouse. Smaller businesses like plumbers, auto body shops, and light industrial manufacturers also found it attractive. However, the area began to atrophy towards the end of the 20th Century. Spaces were cramped. Buildings were old and fell into disrepair. Businesses began to relocate farther out from the city.
A confluence of events sparked the resurgence of Scott’s Addition in recent years. First, this emptying warehouse and industrial district sat conveniently close to downtown Richmond. Second, the government provided tax incentives. Developers could get tax credits for rehabilitating vintage structures in the historic district. The city also offered a tax abatement program on improvements for a period of up to 10 years.
Development began to explode by 2010 and never looked back. Hundreds of new apartments blossomed in Scott’s Addition. Businesses catering to younger clientele with abundant disposable income quickly followed. "Gentrification" might not be quite the right word because the area didn’t have much of an original resident population to push out, although it contained some of the same trappings. It went from a decaying warehouse district to Richmond’s hottest spot in about five years.
I went there for the breweries. They fell into a tight cluster, all within easy walking distance.
A few Twelve Mile Circle readers probably already knew about my visit. They subscribed to my Twitter feed. Yes, I continue to maintain the world’s lamest Twitter account. I post links to new articles, occasional photos of geo-oddities, and lots of pictures from breweries. The beer pictures scare away the geo-geeks while the geography stuff scares away the beer crowd. I’ll gain a few new subscribers and then the total will drop again when I launch into a breweriana Twitter storm. Anyway I’m not sure where I’m going with this. I’d behave differently, I supposed, if I cared about chasing numbers.
Isley Brewing Company. My own photo.
Isley Brewing became the first brewery to open for business in Scott’s Addition. That happened in ancient times, all the way back in 2013. That amazed me. Seriously, the neighborhood changed that quickly. Now, some call it Richmond’s booziest neighborhood.
The Veil Brewing Co. My own photo.
However, the real reason I found myself in Scott’s Addition was because I wanted to visit The Veil. Its brewer spent time at two of the best breweries in the US, The Alchmeist and Hill Farmstead. He also apprenticing at Cantillon in Belgium. I’d heard the buzz and I wanted to check it out in person. Our Richmond friends suggested the walking tour of Scott’s Addition to experience some of the other breweries. We were already there so it made sense. I’m glad we did. The Veil had only two beers on tap during our visit. They were nice although I need to return and try some others before I can form an overall impression of its brewing range.
Ardent Craft Ales. My own photo.
On a beautiful, crisp Autumn day, we enjoyed a sampler at Ardent on their outdoor patio. It attracted a large crowd, as did all of the breweries. Business seemed to be booming everywhere. Also, I was amused by the "loft" apartments next door. They were only 1-story high. Who ever heard of a 1-story loft apartment building?
Three Notch'd Brewing Company. My own photo.
We finished at Three Notch’d. This brewery based in Charlottesville recently opened an outpost in Scott’s Addition, a place specializing in collaboration beers. 12MC readers may remember an earlier article called Three Notches. The brewery took its name from the Central Virginia road described in that article.
I’ll conclude by saying, as I often do when I talk about brewery tours, that this represented responsible behavior. We consumed only small samples at each site to better appreciate the breadth and depth of each location. I’m way too old to go on a serious pub crawl anymore.
I put Scott’s Addition on my list of places I need to see again. Certainly it will only continue to grow and improve.
With a name like Triangle, I expected some actual triangles. I pondered that possibility as I sat on Interstate 95 during heavy weekend traffic, returning from an overnight trip to Richmond. I found plenty of time to consider that notion too as I traveled through Triangle on the interminably slow route on a notoriously congested highway.
National Museum of the Marine Corps. My own photo.
In truth, I already knew about Triangle although I never thought about its name before. It stood just beyond the gates of Marine Corps Base Quantico. The Marines built a wonderful museum bordering Triangle that I visited a couple of years ago. I guessed Triangle must have been roughly triangular. That seemed to be the case when I checked later (map). No online source confirmed it definitively, though. The source of this triangle remained a mystery.
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
That didn’t keep me from finding other triangles. A famous one sat just one state farther south at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The triangle in question referenced three local cities anchored by three major universities: Raleigh (North Carolina State University), Durham (Duke University) and Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). The state government, local governments, the universities and private interests banded together in the 1950’s to create a research-friendly area managed by a non-profit organization. Their foresight worked spectacularly.
Today, we share our home with more than 200 companies and over 50,000 people with expertise in fields such as micro-electronics, telecommunications, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and environmental sciences. Industries invest more than $296 million in R&D at the region’s universities each year – double the average R&D investment for innovation clusters elsewhere in the nation.
Identifying triangles only got more difficult from there.
Junction Triangle, Ontario, Canada
Junction Triangle map on Wikimedia Commons (cc)
Canada offered a recent example with Junction Triangle. It didn’t have much of a name nor much of a presence during most of its history, an isolated parcel on the western side of Toronto. Industry clustered there, and then so did immigrants that worked in the factories through much of the 20th Century. They came from places like Italy and Poland, and later from Portugal. The Portuguese came in such great abundance that soon they dominated the area. Factories declined precipitously and so did the neighbourhood as the century came to an end. However, conditions changed once again in recent years as young professionals began to covet its inexpensive, conveniently-located housing. The neighbourhood needed a fancy new name to match its changing fortune. A contest in 2010 resulted in hundreds of suggestions. The name Junction Triangle (map) won after officials tallied the votes.
Why Junction Triangle? Railroads hemmed the neighbourhood in on three well-defined sides. They formed a fairly decent approximation of a triangle.
Zimbabwe Sugar Cane Train. Photo by Ulrika on Flickr (cc)
Teasing out the triangle in Triangle, Zimbabwe took a great deal more effort (map). Nothing of roughly triangular shape could be discerned anywhere on the nearby landscape. The town existed solely to service a collocated sugar refinery operated by an agricultural conglomerate, Tongaat Hulett Sugar. It processed up to sixty thousand tonnes of white sugar per year along with related products such as molasses and fuel-grade alcohol. Sugar cane was grown there since the 1930’s on a large property called the Triangle Plantation. Logically, the name of the town derived from the name of the plantation.
I discovered the source of the plantation’s name from Murray MacDougall and the Story of Triangle. Murray MacDougall was a fixture in the area and was primarily responsible for developing the sugar industry there.
They named the property Triangle after the registered cattle brand which Mac purchased from a fellow farmer named Van Niekerk, as the poor chap was going out of business and had a very simple brand which almost defied alteration in a period when rustling and brand-changing was not uncommon. For a few pounds Mac purchased both the registered brand itself, in the shape of a simple triangle, and the branding irons to go with it.
MacDougall followed a number of agricultural pursuits including ranching before striking success with sugar. He used the name of the brand that he purchased for his property and retained the name as his enterprise grew.
Anyone looking at a West Virginia map would immediately notice its northern panhandle. It rose high above the rest of the state like a flagpole. This narrow splinter ran 64 miles (103 kilometres) due north, wedged tightly between Ohio and Pennsylvania. Its width also narrowed sometimes to only 4 miles (6 km).
Northern panhandle west virginia on Wikimedia Commons (cc).
Four counties occupied the space; Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall. They all aligned in a vertical sequence.
How could such a bizarre situation develop? Certainly no rational government would create such an anomaly. The usual situation existed here, the overlapping of colonial claims. Nobody really knew what existed beyond the coast. Various Kings of England simply granted a bunch of royal charters. Virginia gained a territory that went all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The charter for Pennsylvania set its farthest extent at an unexplored longitude 5 degrees west of the Delaware River. The overlap became apparent when explorers pushed inward through the Appalachian Mountains decades later. Fort Pitt, built by the British in 1759 during the French and Indian War, fell within the disputed area. Both coveted the town that formed there, Pittsburgh.
Virginia established a county structure despite the overlap. Of course, Pennsylvania refused to accept it. The dispute even continued into the Revolutionary War. The Second Continental Congress convinced the two to settle their dispute and concentrate on fighting the British instead. Pennsylvania had settled a similar problem with Maryland previously, creating the Mason & Dixon Line. The border between Pennsylvania and Virginia would extend that same line a bit farther, to five degrees west of the Delaware River. From there, they drew a line north to the Ohio River. Both sides approved the new border in 1780.
After the war, several of the former colonies including Virginia continued to claim land west of the Ohio River. Most gave up their claims voluntarily for the good of the new nation. Virginia ceded its Northwest Territory after some cajoling, and Congress accepted its offer in 1784. Virginia’s western border became the Ohio River and created the odd panhandle. Nobody intended to form the anomaly. It was a two-step process.
Birth of West Virginia
Independence Hall – Wheeling, West Virginia. Photo by Ryan Stanton on Flickr (cc)
Then came the Civil War and Virginia joined the Confederacy. Many of its western counties wanted to form their own state even before the war began. They jumped at an opportunity to remain on the Union side. The state of West Virginia was born in 1863. Interestingly the initial West Virginia capital fell within that unusual northern panhandle. They formed their new government in the Federal Custom House in Wheeling (map), now called West Virginia’s Independence Hall. Wheeling remained its capital for most of the next twenty years.
Rise of Industry
The Weirton Steel Company Works. Image provided byUpNorth Memories (cc)
The Northern Panhandle became a center of commerce and industry after the Civil War. It had a great location along the Ohio River. It also had more in common with industrial cities like nearby Pittsburgh, Youngstown and Cleveland. Factories rose to serve many needs. The biggest ones produced iron and steel, and Weirton Steel became the biggest of the bunch. It would operate for nearly a century until International Steel Group bought it in 2004. The area also fell onto hard times like other so-called Rust Belt cities. For example, the city of Weirton lost a third of its population starting at the middle of the 20th Century. The city of Wheeling lost more than half of its population.
Ohio River Bridges. Photo by cmh2315fl on Flickr (cc)
The northern panhandle mirrored the states that wedged it in place. It differed distinctly from the remainder of West Virginia.
… many people moved to Weirton and Wheeling which both had reputations for being excellent places to work. Immigrants moved into the area in the early 1900’s because of employment offered by the steel mills… By some counts, there are 50 ethnic groups in Weirton alone.
This included large communities of people from Eastern and Southern Europe like its neighbors. The U.S. Census bureau even included the two northernmost counties, Hancock and Brook, within the Pittsburgh Combined Statistical Area.
Of course, I also like this oddity because it created funny geographic names. How about the West Virginia Northern Community College?