On May 24, 1607, Christopher Newport and John Smith, along with the members of their expedition party, reached the fall line of the James River. To claim the territory for King James I, Newport planted a wooden cross. Three hundred years later, in 1907, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities erected its own cross to commemorate that day. Mounted atop a pyramid of stones removed from the James River, the copper Christopher Newport Cross was placed in Gamble’s Hill Park, on a hill that overlooked the river.
Though scenic, this location was nowhere near the site of the original wooden cross the English explorers had first erected, which historians believe was placed near the north end of the Mayo Bridge. Nevertheless, the 1907 monument remained in place until 1983, when the Ethyl Corporation and the city swapped ownership of Brown’s Island and the park, respectively. Real estate law determined that if the cross was not moved, it would belong to the Ethyl Corporation. To keep the monument public, the city temporarily moved the 80,000-pound monument to a pocket park in Shockoe Slip. In 2000, the cross was moved again to its current location along one of Richmond’s most popular paths, The Canal Walk.