Scenic USA - Virginia

Shot Tower

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Shot Tower - Shot Tower Historical State Park, Virginia

Photos by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Looking more like a fortress than a manufacturing facility, Shot Tower was soundly built during the early 1800s by Thomas Jackson. Taking seven years to construct, Jackson used local gray limestone blocks for the walls that measured two and a half feet thick. Built on a bluff that looks over the New River, the tower was used to produce lead shot for hunters, merchants and soldiers during the War of 1812. With the 75 foot tower standing over a 75 foot vertical shaft, molten lead was poured through a sieve and would form properly shaped shot as it fell 150 feet into a large kettle of water. The shot was retrieved through a tunnel that exited near the river's edge.
     Thomas Jackson was born in Appleby England and immigrated to Virginia in 1785. With his holdings in a lead mine, Jackson branched out on his own, building Shot Tower near present day Austinville, Virginia. Jackson operated the tower until his death in 1824. During the Civil War, the tower was reopened, producing shot for Confederate troops.
     Donated to the State of Virginia by the Lead Mines Ruritan Club, Shot Tower Historical State Park was opened to the public in 1968 after extensive renovations. Today, the tower is one of three remaining shot facilities remaining in America, and is probably the only one of this particular design in the world. For this reason it has been designated both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Engineering Landmark. A hiking trails in the park leads down to the New River and the New River Trail. The day-use park, offering limited facilities, is open to the public, with tours scheduled periodically through the year.

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