AKA, Virginia Fire & Marine Insurance Company; Branch, Cabell & Co.
1015 East Main Street
Architect, George Johnson
A building so tall and skinny, you have to see it in sections.
The building was erected to house the Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance Company and served as their headquarters until 1953 when it was sold to Branch and Company.
The street level portion of the facade consists of a four-bay arcade composed of free-standing Corinthian columns on pedestals, supporting semicircular arches. The arcade forms a screen across a split in levels in the lower portion of the building. In the western-most bay of the arcade a flight of steps ascends to the door of the first floor, while in the other three bays steps descend to the are and to the entrance to the lower level.
Behind the arcade, the arch motif is repeated in architectural features which form the front wall of the first floor and the lower level which are executed in wood, while those of the arcade itself are in cast iron. This arcade supports a full Corinthian entablature which forms the pedestal base of the second floor.
The four bays of the second floor are separated by single engaged Corinthian column with Corinthian pilasters at the edges of the facade. The engaged columns of the second floor support an engaged balustrade which forms the pedestal for the engaged columns between the bays of the third floor. The space between the third and fourth floor is also in the form of an engaged balustrade.
Crowning the facade is a large, full Corinthian entablature with a relatively thin architrave and a wide frieze. The frieze is ornamented with four rosettes; the cornice features modillions, dentils and eggs and darts. (VDHR)
The architect, George H. Johnson, received $595 for plans, specifications, and super-intendence. Baltimore’s Hayward Bartlett Foundry received $5314 for the front itself. The building cost $31,263. Johnson was an Englishman who had come to the United States and worked for one of New York’s most important ironworks, that of Daniel Badger, where he designed fronts. His Richmond work is distinguished. The cast iron was intended to look like stone. [ADR]
Architectural historian Robert Winthrop calls this the finest of Richmond’s ironfronts, and you’d be hard pressed to argue with him. Taken as a whole, the rich detail is stunning.
(Branch Building is a part of the Atlas RVA Project)
- [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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