RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC ) — Several Civil War-era structures have been discovered under a construction site in downtown Richmond.
In 2021, city leaders announced that the CoStar Group Inc. was expanding its campus in Richmond by building a new 26 story building. In the plans the new campus is expected to be 750,000 square feet and will include office and retail space. It was announced that the building would also include six stories for employee amenities like an auditorium, fitness facilities, a conference center and restaurant spaces.
The project broke ground in 2022.
On Monday, CoStar Group’s construction team uncovered a 42-foot-long- red brick tunnel-like structure while excavating the construction site.
Andy Florance is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of CoStar Group.
Florance said the construction manager called him and told him that something very unusual was found on the site and the manager sent a photo of it.
“Gosh It’s been 200 years since this thing would have been buried so I was pretty excited about it,” Florance said. “It’s a big tunnel and what might we find around it?”
In March, a brick wall was uncovered at the site as well as a brick foundation and concrete slab. Both of these objects were found at the far north end of the site near Bragg Street.
According to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, the tunnel-like structure is identified in the Virginia Cultural Resorce database as an archaeological resource that was part of the old Confederate Arsenal and Armory in Richmond.
“It was the primary armory during the Civil War for the Confederacy. So, a lot of stuff happened at this site,” Florance said. “Most ammunitions for the Confederacy during the Civil War were made right there under what will be our new operations headquarters.”
Florance said once the structure was discovered, archaeologists were called to examine at the site.
David Dutton is an archaeologist in the Richmond area and is acting as a consultant to the CoStar team. He’s a partner at Dutton + Associates LLC. He also was the Chief Operating Officer for the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.
Dutton said the discovery is most likely a storm drain, constructed before the Civil War. Its purpose was to move water from the Kanawah Canal down to the Haxall Canal and the James River.
A photo provided to 8news by CoStar Group shows the State Armory in 1849 where the present-day CoStar Richmond expansion construction site sits.
Florance told 8news it used to be an industrial site. The structure was an overflow tunnel from the upper canal down to the lower canal. It also turned a mill that powered the manufacturing process in the armory.
Florance told 8news, the Richmond expansion construction site sits on top of where the fall of Richmond took place in April 1865. Florance said explosions left lead from the bullets and cannon balls that blew up. He said construction workers have recovered a massive amount of lead.
According to Florance, the company is spending $15 million to clean up all of the contaminated soil.
Dutton told company leaders the tunnel-like structure has no broad historical significance, so preservation would not be a priority. A timelapse video obtained by 8news, shows construction coming to a halt. Then a tarp is placed over it. Company leaders told 8news, as construction continues, sections of the tunnel will be demolished.
Along with the tunnel-like structure, Dutton, is currently reviewing the items and will continue to update them on his findings.
Florance said he would have loved to stop construction for a year. However, the brick was preserved, studied, documented and photographed. He hopes to find more interesting objects as construction resumes.
“Good and bad happened there and it is exciting when you discover something like that tunnel, and it just brings that rich history of Richmond to life,” Florance said.
The project is expected to be completed in 2025.
The company plans to preserve elements of the tunnel which will then be displayed at the new building at 501 S. 5th Street. There will be a thorough presentation of the site’s history, its current state and the vision for the future.
“I think it will be an amazing structure that thousands and thousands of Richmonders will work in,” Florance said. “They’ll also play around there and dine there.”