Virginia - Richmond


As overdone as rear window family stickers are, it's impossible to argue with AT-ATs.

Newly reconstructed Kanawha Plaza is in the foreground, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond as the major building in the background. Now you know it's the third largest bank (by assets) after New York and San Francisco. The smaller building to the right is the WestRock headquarters, which is a hell of a lot nicer than its original name of MeadWestvaco. This is why companies get taken over. Because they have crappy names.

The curvilinear James Center is just east of the plaza along Cary Street.

Boatman's Tower is in the James Center courtyard at 10th Street. Constructed in 1987, it combines the best elements of sculpture and clock. Every half hour, the carillon chimes and figures dance in the middle.

The figures consist of bargemen and donkeys in various states of obedience. These are the rest phases for the three-sided obelisk. Actually, I'm not sure if they come to rest in the same place each time, or I just happened to catch them positioned perfectly in the windows.

Click to watch something resembling music while the figures rotate in their "dance".

Moving north, this is the old City Hall on the southeast corner of Broad Street and 11th Street. It served from 1894 to 1971 after spending 8 years in construction of its intricate Gothic details. The next building west was the 1923 high-rise addition to the original 1912 General Assembly Building, but that was all destroyed and replaced since I visited.

Just east of City Hall, the old Virginia Supreme Court/Old State Library opened in 1940, stopped being a courthouse in 1978 and a library in 1986, and is now the Patrick Henry Building. The quote along the top belies its original function: "The Judicial Department comes home in its effect to every man's fireside: it passes on his property, his reputation, his life, his all." John Marshall, outdated phraseology.

West of there, the Sauer Vanilla company (they now produce other cooking products too) has been at Broad Street and Hermitage Road since 1911, though the billboard can't be quite that old.

The Branch Public Baths are east of downtown, past Interstate 95. These are not a branch of the main baths. These were the main baths, constructed in 1909 by John Patteson Branch. I learned from the sign outside that public baths met their demise around the country once indoor plumbing became commonplace.

The first building was the 1895 Leigh Street Armory and the second was the 1860 Trinity Methodist Church. The former became a school almost immediately in 1899, while the latter changed hands starting in 1945 but remains a church. Now for the educational aspect: The armory was founded after years of agitation by local black leaders for equality with whites. Apparently, having local militias was still a thing back then, in keeping with the Second Amendment, and each militia had its own armory. And apparently, armories were publicly funded and this one snuck in before Plessy v. Ferguson set society back again. And so it was built, by black labor, fighting off the white ordinance that required workers to be white within city limits. I don't have good information on why it was converted to a school so quickly, but it became a black school for decades until World War II, when it became a center for black military members. Notice how once it was built with black labor, it was forever a black building. Sorry for all the color naming, but this is the story of the South.

Just east of there, this was the local African-American church from 1858 and remains the Ebenezer Baptist Church to this day.

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