From Cvillepedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pireus was the name for a port downstream of the Woolen Mills on the Rivanna River. The area received that name in the 1820's when it was commercially active.[1]

The Pireus Store was a central feature of the area, serving as the port's storehouse.


Origins and early history

In 1795, a grist mill commenced operations on the site that would eventually become Pireus. In the following two decades, a series of locks and dams were constructed in the area by the Rivanna Navigation Company. A sawmill was constructed on the site around 1820.

In 1825, William Hunter Meriwether purchased 148 acres on the Rivanna River from Isaac and Molly Miller (the land had originally been Molly's share of her father Nicholas Lewis' estate). An active entrepreneur, Meriwether immediately began to develop the area surrounding the confluence of the Rivanna and Moores Creek, calling it "Pireus"; this name was a reference to the port of the same name that famously served the Greek city-state of Athens during the classical period. The area was ordinarily the furthest inland a watercraft could reach along the Rivanna.

On December 7, 1829, when the Rivanna Navigation Company was in the midst of improving the river in order to operate a line of canal boats and packets between Charlottesville and Richmond, Meriwether purchased from that organization the right to construct a dam across the river just above the mouth of Moores Creek. Within a few years, he was receiving rent from two partners, Robert S. Jones and James S. Crewdson, for a factory driven by hydropower and involved in the manufacture of various products.[2] The Rivanna Navigation Company at one time also operated a warehouse at Pireus, with David W. Fowler (the father of Christopher L. Fowler) having been placed in charge of the facility.[3]

Precursor to Woolen Mills

By 1840, Meriwether possessed several mills operating on the east side of the river and had erected a toll bridge. During this time, he also began constructing a flour mill on the west side of the river, which was subsequently leased and completed as a cotton factory, eventually forming the foundation of the activities of the Woolen Mills enterprise later in the century.[4]

On October 22, 1846, Meriwether sold around 150 acres of land, including the site of Pireus, to Thomas H. Farish. On April 20, 1847, Thomas H. Farish sold a 13 acre tract of land that included Pireus as well as one half of the toll bridge, dam and a saw and plaster mill to his father, William P. Farish (the progenitor of the Farish House hotel). On May 15 of that year, Farish and Henry W. Jones formed an unchartered company known as Farish, Jones and Co. The new corporation consolidated the Pireus holdings, marking the start of Woolen Mills as a formal enterprise.[5]

Later history

With the widespread advent of the railroad in ensuing years, Pireus (alongside other local ports such as that of Milton) gradually declined into obscurity.[6]


  1. Web. Canal society celebrates Jefferson the businessman, Tim Shea, Charlottesville Tomorrow, April 28, 2013, retrieved April 29, 2013.
  2. Web. Rivanna Navigation Company, Historic Woolen Mills, 09/02/2007
  3. Web. CAPT. CHRISTOPHER L. FOWLER, Daily Progress, 04/18/1898
  4. Web. Pireus Store 08/10/1983, The Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 08/10/1983
  5. Web. Charlottesville Woolen Mills Chronology, Historic Woolen Mills
  6. Web. Powerhouse Piræus, Cville Power