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Must-See RVA! — First National Bank Building

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

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AKA, Old First and Merchants National Bank Building, BB&T Bank Building
825-827 East Main Street
Built, 1912-1913
Architects, Alfred Charles Bossom, Charles W. Clinton
VDHR 127-0381

Another masterpiece by the King of Neoclassicism.

March 2019

The First National Bank Building is one of the finest examples of turn-of-the-century Neoclassical Revival Architecture in the city of Richmond. This outstanding commercial structure, completed in 1913, was also the city’s first high-rise tower. The building combines monumental scale and fine detailing with the technological daring inherent in early steel-frame, high-rise construction.

[RVCJ03] — original location of First National Bank, circa 1903

Established in April 1865, eight days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, and three weeks after Richmond’s disastrous evacuation fire, First National Bank was founded by respected financial leaders who wanted to pull the fallen city through the difficult period of Reconstruction. When the Confederacy fell at the close of the Civil War, the Federal Government revoked the charters of all banks whose loyalty to the Union might be suspect. Richmond continued without a banking establishment until a group of Richmonders met with northern banker Hamilton G. Fant and associates, and agreed to establish a bank in Richmond under Federal charter.

[RVCJ03] — National Bank of Virginia, intersection of Eleventh & Main Streets, circa 1903

First National Bank opened its office in the old Custom’s House on May 10, 1865, welcoming Robert E. Lee as one of its first customers. The bank soon merged with National Exchange Bank, moving in 1868 from its original one room office on Bank Street (now Governor Street) to a commercial structure at Tenth and Main Streets. Despite difficult and threatening circumstances the bank survived the panic of 1873 and prospered through the later financial crisis of the 1890s. By the turn of the century, First National had the highest total assets of all eighteen banks then in the city, providing needed capital for Richmond’s expanding industry and commerce.

(National Portrait Gallery) — Alfred Charles Bossom

In 1910 the Bank’s Board voted to build a new structure on Main Street to house its offices. Desirous of employing the latest in design and technology, the Board hired the firm of Clinton and Russell to fashion the Bank’s new headquarters. The architect for the project was Alfred Charles Bossom, a native of England who later designed the Vepco Building, and the Virginia Trust building, as well as other notable Richmond structures.

March 2019 — showing four bays of the Main Street elevation

The exterior of the First National Bank Building is divided into four bays on the Main Street elevation, and five bays on the Ninth Street side. The base of the building, the lowest four floors, is punctuated by fifty-foot-high fluted Corinthian pilasters at the corners and engaged columns in between. These engaged columns support a seventeen-and-one-haIf-foot entablature rich with classical ornament.

March 2019

Medallions and carvings in the frieze alternate with the fifth story windows. Rosettes decorate a cornice supported by dentils and modillions. The architrave on both north and east facades bears the carved inscription “FIRST NATIONAL BANK”.

March 2019

A lower ornamental architrave demarks the third floor level. The area between the pilasters and columns is infilled with windows, making this building a clear predecessor to the curtain wall structures which have dominated commercial high-rise architecture since the 1950s. The relative simplicity of the brick “shaft” or tower block section of the building contrasts markedly with its heavily decorated base and cornice.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — showing original cantilevered cornice

The top four floors of the building form a “capital”. Similar to the base, limestone pilasters on all sides mark the building’s structure and support an ornate entablature from which the cornice has been removed.

(First National Apartments) — showing bank lobby

The interior of the First National Bank Building has its richest decoration in the banking room and in the elevator lobby. Marble clad columns support low-springing arches which frame groin vaults once stenciled with a mosaic pattern. The walls of the two-story, twenty-five-foot high space, originally lined with pink Knoxville marble, now feature rather saccharine murals illustrating historic Virginia houses. Light floods the space from the windows in filling the area between the engaged columns on the east wall.

(First National Apartments) — showing lozenge-shaped opening to the vault

In the center of the banking room, a marble stair leads down to the vault room through a lozenge-shaped opening surrounded by a handsome, heavy, brass rail. Marble counters on the west side of the room, which mark the teller stations, are the only remaining original fixtures in the banking room.

(First National Apartments) — showing brass mailbox and bronze elevator doors

The elevator lobby was notable for its beautiful bronze and marble finishes. The ornately carved bronze elevator doors and handsome brass mail box are regrettably the only elements in this area which remain unaltered although much of the original fabric apparently remains under the later trim. The vault room below contains two hand-made circular vault doors made by the Diebold Company in Canton, Ohio. Reputedly hauled up Main Street Hill by mules, the vaults were installed early in the building’s construction. The vault doors, still in use, are unique examples; the only remaining two of their kind.

(VDHR) — 1982 nomination photo, showing parapet shorn of the cornice

Mosaics which ornamented the walls and ceilings of the banking room were removed or covered with plaster. In 1966 extensive deterioration forced the removal of the eleven-foot-deep cornice which cantilevered twenty stories above the street. (VDHR)

March 2019

Aside from all that, it has a beautiful clock at the corner of Ninth and Main.

In the Age of Analog, municipal and commercial buildings everywhere sported elaborate timepieces and everyone relied on them, both those with watches (to set them by) and those without. Then came the Age of Digital when displaying the time of day was an easy parlor trick for devices of all stripes. In one sense this was useful, but the constant awareness has made us more subservient to its passage, and indirectly, for less public ornamentation.

August 2015 — showing First & Merchants National Bank Building

First National eventually became First & Merchants, which became Sovran, then C&S Sovran, NationsBank, and finally Bank of America. When it became F&M, it moved down the street to a spiffy new plaza complex at Twelfth and Main. The old First National Building became BB&T for a while, but today it is First National Apartments.

(First National Bank Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Sources

  • [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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Community

Tiki Club RVA Sets Sail on Saturday

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Sea Suite Cruises RVA is thrilled to announce the launch of its latest cruise experience, Tiki Club RVA (seasuitecruises.com/tiki-club/richmond-va), officially debuting on the James River at Rocketts Landing for the summer and fall season on Saturday, June 3, 2023 — which also happens to be the start of National Fishing and Boating Week across the country. Following the success of the first season of Paddle Club RVA (seasuitecruises.com/paddle-club/richmond-va) in 2022, the team behind Sea Suite Cruises RVA is excited to bring this fun and unique recreational boating experience to residents and visitors of Richmond.

Tiki Club RVA offers a one-of-a-kind “tropical vibes” excursion on the scenic and historic James River. Step aboard the custom-built, 40-foot tiki boat, complete with bamboo trimmings, a thatched roof, and a tiki bar that you can stock with your favorite BYOB drinks and snacks. Available for private charters and public tours, Tiki Club RVA is built for 30 passengers, and accommodates both single-passenger or small group tickets as well as private parties. Similar to Paddle Club RVA, Tiki Club RVA cruises are an hour and 45 minutes in duration.

With music, drinks, and water views of nature and the city skyline, Tiki Club RVA is a memorable way to sight-see along one of Richmond’s biggest attractions – the James River – with friends or family. “With the addition of Tiki Club RVA, along with Paddle Club RVA, we can’t wait to give Richmonders even more fun and relaxing ways to soak up the sun and experience the water,” said Mike Scearce, General Manager of Sea Suite Cruises RVA.

Whether you’re looking for a day out with friends, a unique date idea, a festive way to celebrate a birthday party, an outing idea for a bachelor or bachelorette party or corporate gathering, or just want to get out on the James River, Tiki Club RVA and Paddle Club RVA are where it’s going to be in 2023.

ABOUT SEA SUITE CRUISES: Sea Suite Cruises co-founders Jack Maher and Jack Walten (“The Jacks,” as they are known) were born and raised in Arlington, Va. and have been best friends since they were two years old. The business-side of their journey began in 2018 when the then 24-year-old Jack and Jack launched Potomac Paddle Club, the first pontoon “cycleboat” in Washington, D.C. After adding more boats in Washington, D.C., they built on their success further in 2022 by partnering with local Richmond-based investors to launch Paddle Club RVA and form the parent company, Sea Suite Cruises. Sea Suite Cruises’ mission is to connect exciting people in exciting places around a suite of water-based offerings. After a successful first year in Richmond, the company has now expanded to further locations in the Mid-Atlantic such as The Wharf, Navy Yard, and Alexandria, Va. in the D.C. area, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and Annapolis.

For more information, visit our website at seasuitecruises.com/tiki-club/richmond-va or instagram.com/seasuitecruisesrva.

TIKI CLUB RVA DETAILS

CRUISE DETAILS:
Group Size: Up to 30 people (available for both single ticket purchases or to rent the entire boat for a private party)
Duration: 1 hour and 45 minutes

PRICING*:
Monday-Wednesday: $40/Person
Thursday: $45/Person
Friday-Saturday: $55/Person
Sunday: $50/person
*Pricing may change for holiday weekends and special events

PICKUP + DROPOFF LOCATION:
4708 Old Main St, Richmond, VA. 23231 | On the dock at Rocketts Landing beneath The Boathouse restaurant and Island Shrimp Co.

MISC:
— Bathroom: The vessel comes equipped with a private bathroom on board
— Boat is equipped with Bluetooth-speakers, party lighting for night cruises, and built-in coolers + ice
— Tiki Boat RVA tours are BYOB (hard liquor not allowed, only beer, wine, seltzer, or canned cocktails)
— All cruises are staffed by a licensed master captain and deckhand

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Business

WATCH: Richmond Region Tourism’s new marketing campaign proves Richmond “speaks for itself”

The campaign will run June 1, 2023, through June 2024, and is expected to reach more than 80 million potential travelers through connected TV in selected markets in the East Coast and southern United States, as well as on social media, digital display ads and out-of-home digital billboards in select markets.

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Richmond Region Tourism has launched a new, multi-channel $2 million marketing campaign to inspire travel to the destination. “Speaks for Itself” is a first-of-its-kind campaign for the Richmond Region, targeting potential travelers in East Coast and southern U.S. markets through an unconventional, sound-focused video approach centered around the genuine and authentic character of the region. It also marks a historic opportunity for Richmond Region Tourism to invest more than double its normal budget for tourism marketing.

A 60-second video preview was unveiled to the local hospitality community at Richmond Region Tourism’s 2023 Tourism Awards and Annual Meeting on May 11. The campaign video takes inspiration from popular ASMR content on social media to communicate what it’s like for visitors to experience the Richmond Region – a destination marked by an understated authenticity that even locals find hard to define.

“The Richmond Region speaks to every visitor in different ways,” said Jack Berry, President & CEO of Richmond Region Tourism. “Trying to find a pithy slogan to sum up the region simply wouldn’t do it justice, which is why we’re so excited by this campaign—it provides a platform for local voices and experiences to shine and encourages visitors to take in the many diverse sides of the region.”

The campaign also reflects an effort of community collaboration across the Richmond region. Six jurisdictions including the City of Richmond, Chesterfield County, Hanover County, Henrico County, Colonial Heights and the Town of Ashland contributed funds received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) via Virginia Tourism Corporation, which must be used specifically for tourism recovery efforts.

“It’s the little moments that make a visit to a destination special, and this campaign embraces and celebrates those experiences in a uniquely Richmond way,” said Richmond Region Tourism Board Chair Dan Schmitt. “They could happen at a buzzy restaurant downtown or in a peaceful park in Henrico. This campaign is remarkable in how it can be embraced and adapted across the region’s many jurisdictions.”

Richmond Region Tourism partnered with ChamberRVA and the Greater Richmond Partnership to review a competitive set of proposals from more than a dozen marketing agencies and selected Richmond-based agency Padilla to create and deliver the campaign.

To ensure that the campaign authentically reflected the Richmond Region, Padilla interviewed more than 60 local leaders and community members during campaign concepting including the BLKRVA and OutRVA committees, business owners, government officials, museum staff, college administrators and more. Keeping with the “Speaks for Itself” theme, local influencers also are being tapped to create unique ASMR-style videos that will be promoted in the campaign’s target markets.

The campaign will run June 1, 2023, through June 2024, and is expected to reach more than 80 million potential travelers through connected TV in selected markets in the East Coast and southern United States, as well as on social media, digital display ads and out-of-home digital billboards in select markets.

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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Downtown

New federal tailpipe rules would put stricter limits on Virginia’s heavy truck emissions

As Virginia continues down the road of speeding up the transition from gas-powered passenger vehicles to electric ones, new rules proposed by the federal government could also accelerate electrification of the state’s heavy trucks.

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By Charlie Paullin

As Virginia continues down the road of speeding up the transition from gas-powered passenger vehicles to electric ones, new rules proposed by the federal government could also accelerate electrification of the state’s heavy trucks.

This April, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter tailpipe emissions limits for passenger vehicles as well as for heavy trucks. The new limits for passenger vehicles will have little impact in Virginia: As a result of 2021 legislation, the state follows stricter standards for light vehicles set by California, which will mandate that 100% of sales of new passenger cars be electric beginning in 2035.

But because the 2021 legislation only applies to vehicles weighing 14,000 pounds or less, Virginia must follow the federal emissions standards for heavy trucks, which if finalized will apply to trucks beginning with model year 2027.

While the EPA would allow manufacturers to choose their own method of meeting the stricter emissions standards, the agency projects up to 50% of vocational vehicles — heavy trucks used for particular industries or occupations — in model year 2032 could use electric batteries and fuel cell technologies.

“By proposing the most ambitious pollution standards ever for cars and trucks, we are delivering on the Biden-Harris Administration’s promise to protect people and the planet, securing critical reductions in dangerous air and climate pollution and ensuring significant economic benefits like lower fuel and maintenance costs for families,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a statement.

But Virginia Trucking Association President and CEO Dale Bennett said his group has some concerns about the faster pace the new rules would set for the transition to electric vehicles.

The trucking association expects that under the new rules, fleets will become 100% electric by 2055, given the roughly 30-year lifespan of a heavy truck.

With the trucking association counting about 45,870 heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers in Virginia in 2021, Bennett said more rapid electrification of the fleet will require significant buildout of the electric grid.

He also voiced concerns about charge times, which can take about two hours to power a truck to travel about 200 miles, compared to about 15 minutes to fill up a truck with diesel to cover 1,200 miles; battery weight; and cost. While a new diesel truck can cost about $180,000, typical electric trucks go for $400,000, he said.

“We need to go at the speed of right, not at the speed of light,” said Bennett.

Trip Pollard, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, however, said the stricter standards will improve Virginia’s air quality. He pointed to recent research from the Union of Concerned Scientists estimating exposures to particulate matter from tailpipe emissions, which has been estimated to be responsible for about 95% of the global public health impacts from air pollution.

“EPA’s proposed federal heavy duty vehicle emissions standard will help to clean Virginia’s air — improving our health and our environment,” Pollard said by email.

California has more stringent regulations for heavy trucks, but Virginia hasn’t adopted those, Pollard noted. And while he acknowledged truckers will see an increase in upfront costs for vehicles, he said they can be recouped in three to seven years through savings on gas and maintenance.

If finalized, the rules will be implemented by heavy-truck manufacturers, including Volvo’s New River Valley plant in Dublin, Virginia, and its Mack Trucks facility just outside Roanoke.

Dawn Fenton, vice president of government relations and public affairs at Volvo Group North America, said the company supports the transition to zero-emission vehicles and has committed to 100% of its products being fossil free by 2040. Because the Dublin plant makes both electric and diesel heavy truck engines, the facility will be able to continue producing vehicles while adjusting to a faster transition, Fenton said.

“We see that we’re moving toward a zero-emission vehicle future,” Fenton said. “Our biggest concern is by far the question about the availability of charging infrastructure to be able to enable fleets to be able to adopt them.”

Fenton said “a lot” of Volvo’s current electric truck sales are happening in California, which has stricter heavy-truck emissions regulations and has also created incentives for charging infrastructure buildout and electric vehicle purchases.

In Virginia, House Republicans this past session for the second time killed legislation from Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington, to create a fund that would provide money for rural infrastructure development. The General Assembly has also repeatedly blocked proposals for state rebates for electric vehicle purchases in Virginia, although incentives are available from the federal level through the Inflation Reduction Act.

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We need your help. RVAHub is a small, independent publication, and we depend on our readers to help us provide a vital community service. If you enjoy our content, would you consider a donation as small as $5? We would be immensely grateful! Interested in advertising your business, organization, or event? Get the details here.

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