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RVA Legends — General Offices of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company

A look into the history of Richmond places and people that have disappeared from our landscape.

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801-809 East Main Street
Built, after 1870
Demolished, 1964?

The railway that let you sleep like a kitten.

[RVCJ03] — President George W. Stevens

Its general offices and headquarters of its president, Geo. W. Stevens, are in Richmond. Here also it has one of the finest passenger stations in the South, and to it one of the most elaborate and costly approaches in the country, a doubletrack steel viaduct three miles long. Cuts of the station, viaduct and offices of this line are shown here with.

(LOC) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 10

Housing the managing officials and clerical force of a Railway System 1,635 miles long (including branches), extending from Cincinnati and Louisville (with connections Irom all Western cities) through Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, to the sea at Newport News and Norfolk;

May 2018 — 801 East Main Street — Wytestone Plaza / Ross Building

also through the upper James River Valley, and through the Valley of Virginia to Washington, thence by connections to Baltimore. Philadelphia, New York and other Eastern cities. An East and West Trunk Line and Scenic Route famous for its Fast Flying Virginia Express. [RVCJ03]

(Crocker Art Museum) — Collis P. Huntington — painting by Stephen W. Shaw, 1872

The C&O was the brainchild of Collis P. Huntington, part of his grand vision for uniting rail lines in the 19th century. He was one of the Big Four railroad barons, including Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker (Wikipedia).

(VCU) — 1889 Baist Atlas Map of Richmond — Plate 4

The C&O was originally chartered in 1869, and occupied its new headquarters on East Main Street following the burning of the Spottswood Hotel in 1870. At its founding, the original rail depot was located at the intersection of Broad and the now-vanished Sixteenth Street.

May 2018

The map image above is reoriented for readability, but the passenger depo would have been to the right of Sixteenth Street here, now an area consumed by Hungerford Oil, City Parking, and a VCU lot.

(RubyLane) — Chessie The Cat Print — advertisement for Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, 1930s

Eventually, the C&O would move on from these humble beginnings, constructing the beautiful Main Street Station, in partnership with Seaboard, in 1901. It would later take to advertising a tiny cat called Chessie, a kitten able to find sleep on board its berths — a mascot whose name would eventually grace a holding company, Chessie System.

The headquarters on East Main would eventually relocate to Ohio, and the building which housed them would last until the construction of the Ross Building in the early 60s. But by then, Richmond’s rail glory was long passed.

(General Offices of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


Sources

  • [CDRVA] Chataigne’s Directory of Richmond, Va. J. H. Chataigne. 1881.
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.

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