Island History

Brown’s island was formed in 1789 with the beginnings of the Haxall Canal. For many years, there were two islands, Brown’s and Johnson’s Island with a spillway in between. Today, the islands are one.

The island’s first settler was Elijah Brown, for whom it was named. He acquired the land in 1826. A later owner named Neilson tried to rename the island as Neilson’s Island, but it did not last.

Industrial Age
In 1894, the Richmond Union Passenger Railway opened a coal power plant on the island. In 1899, Dominion Virginia Power opened a hydroelectric power plant on the island’s east side, running off the Haxall Canal. Virginia Power also opened a coal power plant nearby in 1936.

The trolley company’s plant did not last long, but reopend in 1916 as the Dixie Paper Mill

In the 1950s and 60s, electricity production at the hydroelectic plant decreased, and ended altogether in 1968. In 1969, the coal plant was damaged and shut down by flooding from Hurricane Camille. In 1970, the spillway between Johnson’s and Brown’s Islands was closed and the islands merged. Hurricane Agnes also flooded and closed the coal power plant in 1972, and the plant was closed altogether in 1975.

In 1987, the island became part of the city’s James River Park. In 1993, Paul Di Pasquale’s sculpture Headman was erected on the island’s East side. The Dominion Virginia Power coal plant was renovated in 2005.

Beside being a music venue, the island is also home to pathways and is a popular place for sightseeing. Visible from the island is the Belle Isle, the Manchester Bridge, and the ruins of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad Bridge. The Rivanna Subdivision Trestle crosses the island, making it a popular destination for railfans, too.

A walkway extends south from the island into the James River, and another extends north along the Brown’s Island Dam.

Information provided from Wikipedia