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RVA Legends — Life of Virginia Building

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

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[RVCJ03] — original building on Broad Street, circa 1903 — note Old City Hall visible at left

AKA, General Assembly Building
911-915 East Broad Street

Original

  • Built, before 1877
  • Demolished, probably 1923

2nd Building

  • Built, 1912
  • Expanded, 1923, 1955, 1964
  • Demolished, 2018
  • Architects, Clinton & Russell (1912, 1923), Marcellus Wright Associates (1964)

So if you’ve been wondering about that hole in the ground with the propped-up wall at Ninth and Broad, here’s the juice.

Richmond has four local insurance companies—three fire and one life. The three fire companies are the Mutual Assurance Society, the Virginia Fire and Marine Insurance Company, and the Virginia State Insurance Company. The life company is the Life Insurance Company of Virginia.

[RVCJ03] — general office interior view, circa 1903

[RVCJ03] — general office interior view, circa 1903

The total capital, surplus and reserve of the two joint stock fire companies January 1, 1892, was $996,000. The Mutual, being what its name implies, makes no showing of capital. The total assets of the three fire companies then was $1,932,078. Their total receipts in 1891 were $580,000.

The Life Insurance Company of Virginia had over $400,000 in receipts in 1891. Its capital stock is $100,000.

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 7 — showing the original location prior to the 2nd building

(Library of Congress) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 7 — showing the original location prior to the 2nd building

There are some thirty agencies for insurance, local and State, at Richmond. Nearly every home and foreign company of any note doing business is represented here. The Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company has one of its five American branches here, and from the nature of its organization, with directors resident here, may be considered practically a local company.

July 2019 — 911-915 East Broad Street today — this is what they call foreshadowing

July 2019 — 911-915 East Broad Street today — this is what they call foreshadowing

The grand total of insurance business here is, by recent reports, $1,318,812 annually: $545,666 fire, $701,813 life, and $71,333 accident. The total insurance upon the property endangered by fire here in 1891 was $809,647; the insurance loss was $196,190. The insurance men of the city are organized as a Board of Underwriters, George D. Pleasants, president; Ro. E. Richardson, secretary.

The Life Insurance Company of Virginia is an old company and a solid one. On December 31st, 1892, its annual statement was rendered. That statement shows it to have $100,000 capital stock, and a surplus as to policy-holders of $156,962.52.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — 2nd building, constructed in 1906

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — 2nd building, constructed in 1906

At the same time its assets were $819,029.86, and the total amount of its insurance in force, $9,832,327.00, an increase in assets, over the year preceding, of $140,286.27 and in the matter of insurance in force of something over $1,552,398.00. It has paid to its policy-holders, since its organization, $1,226,320.39 and during the last six years its premium income has increased nearly five-fold. Its total income, last year was $507,752.35. It is a company that pays its death claims immediately upon presentation and approval of the proofs of death.

[RVCJ03] — John G. Walker, President & T. William Pemberton, 1st Vice President, circa 1903

[RVCJ03] — John G. Walker, President & T. William Pemberton, 1st Vice President, circa 1903

Its policy-holders now number over 70,000, scattered through many States of the Union. The results already attained by this company show that it has had intelligent and conservative management.

G. A. Walker, its president, has been in the insurance business for the past eleven years, and has displayed great executive ability in his management of the Company. James W. Pegram, its secretary, has spent twenty- two years in this company’s service ever since it started, in fact—and twenty-six years in the life insurance business, and has ably seconded the efforts of the president in making this the most successful Southern Life Insurance Company.

[RVCJ03] — James W. Pegram, 2nd Vice President & W. L. T. Rogerson, Secretary, circa 1903

[RVCJ03] — James W. Pegram, 2nd Vice President & W. L. T. Rogerson, Secretary, circa 1903

The directors are these officials and John G. Walker; T. William Pemberton, a capitalist of this city, who has been connected with the company for nearly twenty years as a director, and one of its vice-presidents; Everett Waddey, of the Everett Waddey Printing Company; General F. JI. Cameron; Major George Johnston; W. J. Walker; F. P. Cooke, of T. F. Minor & Co., who succeeded his father, the late General John R. Cooke, in the board of directors, and John F. Slaughter, Jr., cashier of the Fidelity Bank of Durham, N. C.

Messrs. Coke & Pickrell, attorneys, are the counsel of the company. The large and increasing business of the company requires the employment of over fifty persons in the Richmond office.

[RVCJ93] — original offices in the Hanewinkel Building at Ninth & Main Streets

[RVCJ93] — original offices in the Hanewinkel Building at Ninth & Main Streets

Among the stockholders of the company are James B. Pace, president of the Planter’s National Bank; G. A. Walker, James Pleasants, W. J. Walker, T. William Pemberton, James W. Pegram, John G. Walker, of Richmond, Va.; Fred. Taylor, of Norfolk, Va.; Colonel Frank Reed, of Washington, D. C.; Major George Johnston, of Alexandria, Va., and many others.

The Home Offices of this company are situated at the corner of Ninth and Main streets, in the building shown in the engraving accompanying this matter. [RVCJ93]

July 2019 — looking towards the former location of the Hanewinkel Building, Ninth & Main Streets

July 2019 — looking towards the former location of the Hanewinkel Building, Ninth & Main Streets

That was true in 1893. Sometime between the publication of the 1893 and 1903 editions of Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James, the company moved from the Hanewinkel Building to the Broad Street location, made possible by the construction of Old City Hall in 1886. Until that year, the future offices of the Life Insurance Company of Virginia had been the city’s main municipal building following the demolition of Original City Hall in 1874, a depressing coda to the Municipal War and the Virginia Capitol Disaster of 1870.

(Richmond Magazine) — 2nd building under construction, center left, circa 1910— Cook Collection, The Valentine(Richmond Magazine) — 2nd building under construction, center left, circa 1910— Cook Collection, The Valentine

(Richmond Magazine) — 2nd building under construction, center left, circa 1910— Cook Collection, The Valentine

The new space must have been too small for their needs because by 1910 the company had embarked on constructing their own building on the same block, designed by the King of Neoclassicism, Alfred Charles Bossom of Clinton & Russell.

The initial building, known as the Life of Virginia Building, is considered one of the finest early 20th century Beaux-Arts-style buildings in Virginia. The main structure was built in several parts. The first building, facing Capitol Square, is five stories high and was completed in 1912.

(Historic Richmond) — detail of Corinthian pilasters with American eagles, cherubs, and winged horses, 2015

(Historic Richmond) — detail of Corinthian pilasters with American eagles, cherubs, and winged horses, 2015

The 1912 building features three-story-tall Corinthian pilasters with American eagles, cherubs, and winged horses. This is the only example of Pegasus in classical columns in all of Richmond. Bossom’s likely source for the Pegasus capitals was Andrea Palladio’s drawing of a Pegasus capital from the Temple of Mars Ultor in Rome. The original entrance to the building is on the southwest corner of the façade, facing Capitol Street. This entrance has “handsome bronze gates and an elaborately carved stone frontispiece with a semicircular arched pediment supported by scroll brackets.” The original entrance was glazed to make a window, but the exterior appearance has remained unaltered.

[ADR] — 1st addition, circa 1982

[ADR] — 1st addition, circa 1982

As evidence of the company’s rapid growth, the company built an addition in 1923 on the north side of the initial building, with a façade along Broad Street. The eleven-story tower, also designed by Clinton and Russell, reflects a “restrained classical style.” The 1923 addition features a cornice with modillions and dentils, doric order pilasters with a decorated band of anthemia and a balustrade along the roof edge. The building was designed as a Beaux-Arts high rise, which was a popular design for official buildings during the early part of the 20th century. The 1923 addition was further connected to the Life of Virginia portion of the building in 1955 with a six-story structure.

[ADR] — showing the 1st addition (left) and the modernist 2nd addition (right), circa 1982

[ADR] — showing the 1st addition (left) and the modernist 2nd addition (right), circa 1982

In 1965, Life of Virginia commissioned a second addition designed by the local architectural firm, Marcellus Wright and Partners. The steel framed structure of this addition artfully and purposefully uses concrete paneled faces to mimic the architectural divisions and bays of the earlier structures. Soon after its completion, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts included the Marcellus Wright and Partners addition it in its publication celebrating the Commonwealth’s finest architecture. William B. O’Neal, author, notes the differing floor heights rarely seen in most modern high-rises add “vivacity of proportion that is expressed with firmly modeled corners, rhythmic window divisions, and strong structural elements.” Robert Winthrop called the tower “the most sensitively designed highrise in the city.” (Historic Richmond)

July 2019 — showing the remaining facade of the 1912 building

July 2019 — showing the remaining facade of the 1912 building

The Commonwealth of Virginia also had a need for additional space, purchased the entire complex in 1975, and renamed it the General Assembly Building. Unfortunately, the state was not a good steward and allowed the building to decay to the point that the only choice was to demolish and start over.

It was not a popular decision and sparked much debate about how to preserve at least some portion. In the end, it was determined that the 1912 building held the greatest architectural significance. When the rest of the structure came down, its facade remained, and it will be incorporated into the new assembly building currently under construction.

(Life of Virginia Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert Winthrop. 1982.
  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.
  • [RVCJ93] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1893.

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Combining protean forces from the forbidden Zero Serum with the unbridled power of atomic fusion, to better probe the Wisdom of the Ancients and their Forgotten Culture.

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Mending Walls Artwork Stolen

Stealing this art makes no sense and just seems to be a hurtful act.

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Spotted on the Mending Walls Facebook.

Mending Walls has been about bringing people together through creative means. It is baffling that someone would try to silence this conversation.

Our purpose is to inspire empathy and connection. We were very excited to invite you all to see the final display created by the wonderful local artist who we’ve been highlighting over the last couple of weeks in collaboration with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Richmond, VA)

The art was installed on November 17th and by the morning of the 18th artwork work was missing without a trace.

Events like this assures us that our work and purpose is causing change.

“If your voice had no power, they would not try to silence you.”

Mending Walls is a public art project that brings together public artists from different cultures and backgrounds to create murals that address where we are now in society and how we can move forward through understanding and collaboration. They’re responsible for many of the iconic murals you see in town.

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What’s Going Down in Downtown for the Holidays

This extensive list was provided by Venture Richmond. The fun starts this weekend with the biggie RVA Illuminates on Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza,

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Venture Richmond has compiled a list of activities to plan your holidays Downtown with family and friends, so be sure to check our website for updates throughout November and December.

Craft + Design 2021 

Friday-Sunday, November 19-21 at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.

Now in its 57th year, Craft + Design is a museum-quality show that has garnered a reputation for showcasing the finest in contemporary craft. Shoppers spend the weekend browsing the work of artists from all over the country. Awards are presented in ceramics, precious metals, glass, wood and recycled materials, contemporary design, innovative use of traditional craft materials and fiber. Fee for tickets. https://www.visarts.org/events/craft-design-show/

 

Shop Small Saturday

Saturday, November 27, 11AM-6PM, in Downtown RVA

Visit Downtown RVA and support the local shops and small businesses like Little Nomad, Verdalina, Someday, Maven Made, Shockoe Bottom Clay and more for Shop Small Saturday, a nationally celebrated shopping holiday that highlights local and small business owners! To read more about shopping downtown, visit https://venturerichmond.com/explore-downtown/shopping/

 

Richmond Symphony presents Let It Snow!

Saturday, November 27, 8PM at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

It’s Richmond’s favorite holiday musical tradition – now on Thanksgiving weekend! Celebrate the season with family, friends and the Richmond Symphony at the Carpenter Theatre. Carols, classics and sparkling holiday favorites – even a visit from Santa! Conducted by Chia-Hsuan. Fee for tickets.

https://www.dominionenergycenter.com/events/detail/richmond-symphony-pops

RVA Illuminates

Friday, December 3, 5:45PM at Kanawha Plaza, 801 E. Canal St.

A time-honored Richmond tradition will continue in 2021! See RVA shine when the switch is flipped ON to light up downtown’s skyline for the 2021 holiday season at 6:00pm. RVA Illuminates is back in-person this year with ABC8 News airing live complete coverage of performances, uplifting stories, and the official lighting. Be sure to join in the festive fun by lighting up your own storefronts and homes too! This event is coordinated by the City of Richmond Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. Free event.

 

Christmas Under the Clocktower

Friday, December 3, 7PM at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St.

The second annual event where local nonprofits show off their creativity by designing Christmas trees! Vote for your favorite in-person or online December 3-December 19. Free event.

https://www.facebook.com/events/206490788290894

 

RVA First Friday

Friday, December 3, 5-11PM in downtown’s Arts District along Broad Street

Show Broad Street some love and holiday spirit when you explore galleries, shops, restaurants, nonprofits and more on the first Friday of every month at RVA First Friday along and around Broad Street. Free to attend, fees for shopping. https://www.facebook.com/events/223796113036927

 

Christmas Eve with C.S. Lewis

December 3-12 at Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

In this festive production, viewers find C.S. Lewis at his home near Oxford on Christmas Eve hosting a group of Americans who are Christmassing in England. They are about to experience an unforgettable assortment of Yuletide recollections which stimulates a whole range of emotions – curiosity, laughter, gladness and even some tears. Above all, they will discover how an encounter with JRR Tolkien forever changed Lewis’s Christmas celebrations. Fee for tickets.

https://www.dominionenergycenter.com/events/detail/christmas-eve-with-cs-lewis

 

Dominion Energy Christmas Parade

Saturday, December 4, starts at the Science Museum of Virginia at 10:15AM, travels eastbound on Broad St., ends at 7th and Marshall Sts. downtown

Welcome back the Dominion Energy Christmas Parade for its 38th annual parade celebration featuring colorful floats, giant helium balloons, high school and college marching bands, princesses, superheroes and returning favorites including the trademark Wells Fargo stagecoach, the VCU Peppas and Legendary Santa! The parade also airs LIVE on WTVR CBS6. Free event. Rain or shine.

https://www.richmondparade.org/

 

Richmond Symphony presents A Baroque Holiday

Saturday, December 4, 7:30PM at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

The greatest story ever told. The most majestic music ever conceived. Be there for the greatest moments from Handel’s Messiah with the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Symphony Chorus, and soloists. Plus, other Baroque classics to brighten your holiday musical celebration. Fee for tickets. 

https://www.dominionenergycenter.com/events/detail/a-baroque-holiday-1

 

Richmond Makers Market: Holiday Cheers

Sunday, December 5, 12-6PM at Basic City Beer Co., 212 W. 6th St.

This Makers Market features new makers monthly ranging from candlemakers and crafters to confections and works of clay. Head to Manchester’s Basic City Beer Co., a dog-friendly brewery, for an afternoon of shopping and supporting local RVA makers. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1068760510561265

 

Movies on Brown’s Island: Elf

Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM on Brown’s Island, 500 Tredegar St.

Movies on Brown’s Island, presented by Dominion Energy, is an outdoor family activity, brought to you by Venture Richmond Events. Pack your chair or blanket, bring a picnic dinner, then find your perfect spot on Brown’s Island and enjoy an evening featuring Elf while taking in the stunning views of the James River and Downtown’s holiday skyline.  

Seating is first come, first served. Bringing blankets and/or chairs for comfort is recommended. No seating will be provided. Vendors for the event include Strawberry Street Events and Espresso-A-Go-Go. No pets are allowed on premises during the movies. Parking is available at the Belle Isle parking lot and on-street parking is available along 2nd and 5th Streets. Gates open at 5PM; Show starts at 5:45PM. Tickets are $5 per person (ages 5 and under no ticket needed) and can be purchased in advance online or at the gate. https://venturerichmond.com/our-events/movies-on-browns-island/

 

Richmond Boat Parade of Lights

Saturday, December 11, 5:30PM along downtown’s riverfront, best views from Libby Hill Park in Church Hill and at Rocketts Landing

Each year, boaters decorate their boats and converge on the James River for a parade that marks the beginning of the holiday season. Grab the family and gather at one of the several viewing sites to see the boats and enjoy holiday entertainment. Free event. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/174697928104850

 

Richmond Night Market

Saturday, December 11, 5-9PM at 17th Street Market, 100 N. 17th St.

Richmond Night Market is a monthly, open-air night market held at the 17th Street Market and features a family-friendly experience filled with music, programming, and independent artists and vendors. Shop the local artists and support the Shockoe Bottom restaurants too. Entertainment and programming include live music and cultured and diverse activities for all ages! Free to attend, fees for vendors. https://www.richmondnightmarketva.com/

 

Richmond Ballet’s The Nutcracker

December 11-23 at the Dominion Energy Center, 600 E. Grace St.

The Nutcracker makes its triumphant return this 2021 holiday season! Accompanied by the Richmond Symphony, Clara and her adoring Nutcracker, the glittering butterfly and dancing Russian bear will once again charm audience members of all ages. This is the final opportunity to see this version of our beloved production before it’s reimagined for 2022. Fee for tickets.

https://richmondballet.com/event/the-nutcracker/2021-12-11/

 

Winter Wander: Celebrate Court End

Sunday, December 12, noon-4PM at The Valentine, 1015 E. Clay St.

Save the date and join The Valentine for some winter cheer on their picturesque block of East Clay Street! There will be hot beverages, family crafts and games, and live music. You can also take a self-guided tour of the historic Court End neighborhood and hop on a shuttle to visit nearby cultural sites for open houses and other activities. Free event.

https://thevalentine.org/event/winter-wander-celebrate-court-end/

A Black Christmas in Jackson Ward

Saturday, December 18, noon-7PM at 10 E. Leigh Street

Join RVA Black Farmer’s Market and The Exclusive Blacklist as they present a merry time celebrating the holiday season with a vendor market, food vendors and live music happening in the heart of the Jackson Ward neighborhood. Free to attend, fee for vendors. 

 

Continued updates and potential schedule changes can be found on Venture Richmond’s website: 

https://venturerichmond.com/news/downtown-rva-2021-holiday-calendar/

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Pipeline has Re-opened

It took longer than expected to make the repairs but you can now walk one of the best trails in Richmond again.

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RVAH2O made the announcement on Instagram.

We’re thrilled to finally say it: Pipeline Trail is reopened! 🎉🎉🎉

There are three places along the pipe where our repair work continues with several quick fixes, but we’re able share this great @rvaparksandrec space with you as we finish up. We won’t have to limit access to Pipeline when we’re completing this work, so we’ll see you down there! Say hi! 👋

We’ve all learned a lot along the way fixing up a 43.13” diameter pipe within the James River:
💦 high water is not to be messed with when it comes to making repairs within the mighty James!
💦 maintenance is vital and it’s essential to invest in infrastructure—we all got to see the need and the importance of taking action quickly to protect water quality during this process
💦 meticulous work takes time: our crews covered about 677.48 square feet of this pipe that carries both stormwater and wastewater to Richmond’s (*your*) wastewater treatment plant with layers upon layers of mesh and epoxy
💦 y’all love Pipeline (so do we!) 💕😍🥰💙🥾

For those who haven’t visited Pipeline Trail yet, you can access this unique walkway from Brown’s Island (under the 9th Street bridge) or from behind (on the river-side of) the floodwall and south of East Bryd Street east of @casadelbarco / @venturerichmond’s Canal Walk / 12th Street and west of Vistas on the James / @bateaurva / Virginia Street. We’d LOVE to see your pictures as you visit this space once again (or for this first time)! 📸

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