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Must-See RVA! — Henry Mansfield Cannon Memorial Chapel

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

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December 2019

36 Westhampton Way
Built, 1929
Architect, Charles M. Robinson
VDHR 127-0364

A masterpiece of Late Gothic Revival nestled away on the UR campus.

December 2019 — front/north façade

December 2019 — front/north façade

Rising from a concrete foundation veneered with concrete incised to look like cut stones, the walls are constructed of steel frame clad with red brick laid in Flemish bond. The entries have original doors of paneled wood with iron detailing. A large rose window highlights the primary façade and Gothic pointed-arch and lancet windows are found on the remaining walls. The window openings on the east and west elevations have stained glass replacement windows with concrete tracery. The front-gabled roof is sheathed with variegated slate tiles.

December 2019 — detail of pinnacles

December 2019 — detail of pinnacles

A rectangular apse at the back of the chapel also has a slate-covered gabled roof. The eaves of the roof are trimmed by brown metal gutters that drain to brown metal downspouts. Rooftop elements are restricted to parapets that mask portions of the roof on the front and back walls of the building. A rich deployment of original stone and molded and cast concrete decorative elements is a character-defining feature of the building. Pinnacles at the east and west ends of the primary façade, window and door surrounds, drip molds, belt courses, and accents on brick buttresses all were constructed using molded concrete.

December 2019 — showing quoins & quatrefoils

December 2019 — showing quoins & quatrefoils

Concrete quoins of varying sizes are located at the edges of walls and around some windows and doors. Other concrete features include decorative reliefs and sculptural elements in foliate and other patterns above doors and windows and at the corners of walls on all sides of the building. Other concrete features include decorative reliefs and sculptural elements in foliate and other patterns above doors and windows and at the corners of walls on all sides of the building; these typically mimic quatrefoil or other designs found in Gothic tracery.

December 2019 — trumpet-playing angel relief

December 2019 — trumpet-playing angel relief

Quatrefoil ornaments flank the pointed arch. Above the pointed arch, a stone carving that reads “Cannon Memorial” in stylized Gothic lettering spans the entry bay, and is flanked by trumpet-playing angel reliefs. This name block is topped with a gabled parapet that has three foil arch reliefs. To either side of the entry, recessed bays include small windows with stained glass panels and concrete drip molds and quoin surrounds.

December 2019 — rose window detail

December 2019 — rose window detail

On the main block, the primary façade features symmetrical composition, with a centered entry block on the first story, a rose window above the entry, double foil arch and opening in the gable, and a cross on top of the gable. Set within a slightly projecting bay, the rose window has twelve foil arch traceries radiating from the central circle. The stained glass was installed in the rose window during the mid-1980s.

December 2019 — entry bay detail

December 2019 — entry bay detail

On the west wall, an entry bay projects from the fourth bay, beneath the stained glass window. Accessed via a brick wheelchair ramp, the entry is similar in style and ornamentation to the primary entry on the north façade. Double-leaf, original wood doors are surmounted by a molded concrete surround and pointed arch with a large cinquefoil design. Above the pointed arch, a gabled concrete parapet bears a centered blank shield flanked by leaf ornamentation. At each corner is a relief of a kneeling angel.

December 2019 — rear/south façade

December 2019 — rear/south façade

The rear wall of the chapel has battered brick buttresses at each corner, each with concrete accents. A sloped, slightly projecting bay topped with concrete incised to look like stone is between the buttresses. A concrete water table extends the length of the wall. Immediately below the water table, at the ground level are two vents and one small window, each with a simple concrete surround. The window appears to be original to the building, while the vents likely were added at a later date to accommodate mechanical systems.

December 2019 — memorial garden

December 2019 — memorial garden

A memorial garden is on the east side of Cannon Chapel. A brick and stone wall encloses the garden, with iron gates placed on the north and south walls. On the west wall, a wood gate leads to the neighboring Wilton Center. The landscaped area features brick and stone walkways, benches, ornamental plantings, and a central fountain. Low wing walls extend from the base of each buttress on the chapel’s east wall. Each wing wall is composed of brick and stone block and is topped with a concrete planter. The memorial garden is intended for the scattering of ashes.

December 2019 — nave

December 2019 — nave

Cannon Memorial Chapel is a nave plan with a center aisle, small side aisles, and an alter area. The narthex and small rooms to either side are contained within the entry block on the north façade. The narthex features original paneled woodwork, historic-period tile flooring, and a plaster ceiling featuring a raised geometric pattern. Double leaf, paneled wood doors lead to the nave. Within the nave and to either side of the narthex doors are single-leaf wood doors. The east door opens to a prayer room, while the west door leads to the chapel guild room.

December 2019 — nave

December 2019 — nave

The interior of the chapel features a soaring, vaulted timber ceiling supported by arch braces. Wood pews flank the aisles. Carpet covers the aisles while the remaining flooring is wood. The space is lit by stained glass windows on all sides. A cast concrete molding runs around the entire interior space just below the bottom edges of the pointed arch windows. The area below the molding has been painted to look like blocks of stone in varying shades of tan. Raised wood panels with molded surrounds are beneath each window and include a name plate with a dedication for each window. Above the molding are white plastered walls.

December 2019 — detail of stained glass windows, east side — “Law and Justice” (left), “Commerce and Industry (right)

December 2019 — detail of stained glass windows, east side — “Law and Justice” (left), “Commerce and Industry (right)

The theme for the windows is “Let All the Universe Praise Thee, O God.” From north to south, the stained glass windows on the east wall are titled “Praise” (installed 1985), “Law and Justice” (1986), “Commerce and Industry” (1986), “Creation” (1987), “Prophets” (1986), “Incarnation” (1986), and “Redemption” (1986). From north to south on the west wall, the windows are titled “Prayer” (1985), “The Sciences” (1985), “Art and Humanities” (1987), “University Window” (1986), “Hope and Renewal” (1985), “Pentecost” (1986), and “Resurrection” (1985).

(Stetson University) — Rudolf von Beckerath, of Beckerath organs, plays the ‘house organ’ at the home of Music School professors Paul and Janice Jenkins on North Sans Souci in DeLand, Florida — 1961

(Stetson University) — Rudolf von Beckerath, of Beckerath organs, plays the ‘house organ’ at the home of Music School professors Paul and Janice Jenkins on North Sans Souci in DeLand, Florida — 1961

In 1936, a Hammond electric organ was installed in the chapel. In 1961, the present pipe organ was constructed. The German organ builder, Rudolph von Beckerath, prepared the drawings, and the University’s music director, Dr. John White, and the University organist, Professor Suzanne Kidd (later, Bunting) guided negotiations. The organ pieces were fabricated in Hamburg, Germany, then shipped to Richmond in 36 crates. Three German workmen from Hamburg installed the instrument in nine weeks under White’s and Bunting’s supervision. Von Beckerath supervised the final installation and voiced the pipes.

December 2019 — pipe organ

December 2019 — pipe organ

The third Beckerath organ in the United States, it has 1,200 pipes (40 ranks) of tin, lead and wood, the largest measuring 16 feet, the shortest being smaller and thinner than a soda straw. A direct connection between each key and each pipe creates the sound. Robert Noehren played the dedicatory organ concert on Feb. 9, 1962. Within a short time the von Beckerath organ became known to organists in Europe and America as one of the finest installations in the country. The organ is included in “A Collection of Noted Organs and Organists of the World,” by H.J. Winterton.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — University of Richmond campus, circa 1915

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — University of Richmond campus, circa 1915

The original conceptual plans for the University of Richmond campus were conceived by Ralph Adams Cram, a Richmond architect and principal of the firm Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. Cram had extensive experience designing institutional campuses, and believed that the Collegiate Gothic style was most appropriate for college campuses.

The University’s new chapel would be dedicated to Henry Mansfield Cannon, like T. C. Williams, a Richmond tobacco entrepreneur with a soft spot for UR. The architect selected to design it was Richmond’s own Charles M. Robinson, who would have considerable success with the design of public school campuses in Virginia over the course of his career.

(Mary Washington University) — Charles M. Robinson — 1867-1932

(Mary Washington University) — Charles M. Robinson — 1867-1932

For James Madison University in 1908, Robinson developed a comprehensive plan for the campus with a Beaux Arts scheme. He also developed plans for Radford University and Virginia State College in 1913, and also designed eleven buildings for the latter. He would go on to serve as William and Mary’s College Architect from 1921-31, where he would design over 60 buildings in support of his Georgian Revival master plan.

Robinson’s work on Cannon Chapel followed the Collegiate Gothic architectural precedents set by Cram, but it also displayed his own interpretation of the style, with more elaborately embellished and decorative Gothic features than the Cram buildings. (VDHR)

(Conproco) — 2013 repairs

(Conproco) — 2013 repairs

Old buildings need renewal and the chapel has twice received makeovers, in 1976 and 2013.

(In 1976) the acoustics were improved by removing felt covering from the perimeter walls and placing carpet over the tile flooring. The roof, windows, front stairs, and walk received repairs. New lighting, heating, ventilation, and public address systems were installed. The renovation budget was not sufficient to install central air conditioning, but a forced air circulation system was installed. Several pews were removed from the front rows of the chapel, allowing the chancel to be reshaped by building the aforementioned wood platform in their place. At the same time, the choir loft was restructured to have a capacity of 80 people. (VDHR)

The 2013 work was more extensive where parapet stones and pinnacles were removed and repaired, thru-wall flashing and copper caps were installed, and corroded rebar and masonry cracks were addressed. (Conproco)

(VDHR) — 2012 nomination photo

(VDHR) — 2012 nomination photo

But that’s good. You give 84 year-old buildings all the TLC they need so that they’ll be around for another 84 years. Cannon Chapel continues to serve a vital mission for the university. Yes, it’s a unique alternate venue for meetings, concerts, and special events. It’s also a place of worship and where ceremonies of faith, like weddings or interments, can be observed, and speaks well to UR’s Baptist roots.

It’s also Mac-Daddy beautiful, so what’s your excuse? Check it out.

(Henry Mansfield Cannon Memorial Chapel is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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Wayback RVA — View in Mount Calvary Cemetery

A Then & Now photo essay of Richmond places from around the area.

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View in Mount Calvary Cemetery,
Richmond, Va.

Mount Calvary’s central layout takes the form of a cross, of which the base, shown in the postcard, is the Pizzini family plot.

Captain Andrew Pizzini was in the VMI Class of 1865 and participated in the Battle of New Market. After the war, he was president of Richmond’s Electrical Street Railways Light and Power Companies and was a leading proponent of the (then) New City Hall.

The Father Time statue that watches over Captain Pizzini has seen better days and seems to have lost the crutch on which he leaned.


(View in Mount Calvary Cemetery is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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RVA Legends — Architectural Iron Works

A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer part of our landscape.

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[IOR] — looking toward the northwest corner of Eleventh & Cary Streets
  • 1008-1012 East Cary Street

One of the “constellation of firms” associated with iron man Asa Snyder. [CAW]

(Coal Chutes of Richmond) — showing manufacture by Asa Snyder & Co.

(Coal Chutes of Richmond) — showing manufacture by Asa Snyder & Co.

Asa Snyder & Co. Proprietors. Thirty-five years ago this establishment was founded by the late Asa Snyder in a very moderate way, but it gave genuine evidence of enterprise from the start, and in a few years it became a noted landmark of business industry. War, fire, and financial strife, have battered at its doors, but it still stands a monument to the enterprise of its founder.

[AAA] — advertisement for Snyder & Irby’s architectural ironworks

[AAA] — advertisement for Snyder & Irby’s architectural ironworks

Its contributions to the trade reflect the greatest credit on the mechanical skill of those employed in its several constructive departments. They find a large and steady demand from Virginia and West Virginia, North and South Carolina, for their beautiful and reliable goods of architectural designs. They employ sixty hands, and have a cupola capacity for making five tons of castings per hour.

(Glassian) — a Hyatt Patent Area Light

(Glassian) — a Hyatt Patent Area Light

Their specialties are all kinds of galvanized, cast and wrought iron used in building, which embraces vault doors, elevators,. fence and balcony railings, verandas, skylights, cornices, window hoods, steeples, &c. They are also manufacturers of Hayes’ Patent Skylight, Hyatt’s Patent Area Light, for which they control Virginia.

(Chronicling America) — advertisement for Asa Snyder & Co. — The Jewish South — Friday January 13, 1899

(Chronicling America) — advertisement for Asa Snyder & Co. — The Jewish South — Friday January 13, 1899

Messrs. Asa K. Snyder and Benj. J. Atkins comprise the present firm of Asa Snyder & Co. They were both members of the firm at the time of the death of Mr. Asa Snyder, in 1884, and have continued under the same firm name.

(Virginia Memory) — letterhead for Architectural Iron Works, Asa Snyder & Co.

(Virginia Memory) — letterhead for Architectural Iron Works, Asa Snyder & Co.

Mr. Asa K. Snyder was born and raised here, and was brought up in the iron trade. He is also in the pig iron and foundry supply brokerage business.

Mr. Atkins resides in Manchester. He has been connected with this house for twenty years, and has been a partner in the concern since 1877. [IOR]

[IOR] — Tanner and Delaney Engine Company which became Richmond Locomotive & Machine Works after a hostile takeover in 1887

[IOR] — Tanner and Delaney Engine Company which became Richmond Locomotive & Machine Works after a hostile takeover in 1887

Snyder may have been well-known, but he was not the biggest game in town.

Mention has been made of the three great iron works here, the Tredegar, the Old Dominion and the Richmond Locomotive Works, employing probably 2,500 hands between them. Of this class, there are, besides, two big stove works, the Richmond Spike Works and the Johnson forge, for car axles, in Manchester; electric light, and electrical construction companies and establishments, and half a dozen carriage and wagon and agricultural implement works, of more than local note and business, not to mention the minor shops and smithies that are here in scores. [RVCJ93]

Despite this, Snyder’s work was arguably longer-lived and more visible than any of the big three.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts on the J. P. Winston Building, which as originally 101-107 South Fourteenth Street, no matter Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC’s current address

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts on the J. P. Winston Building, which as originally 101-107 South Fourteenth Street, no matter Kaplan Voekler Cunningham & Frank PLC’s current address

A number of partial facades were provided by Richmonder Asa Snyder. Snyder, along with the constellation of firms associated with his name, seems to have had several standard designs. Several buildings used a squared-off, classical colonnade with capitals made up of what looks like slightly over-ripe fruit. Others used a more geometrically precise rectangular ornament. Snyder provided a full range of architectural ornaments for his buildings which also possess cast iron window caps and cornices.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Sam Miller’s — 1210 East Cary Street

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Sam Miller’s — 1210 East Cary Street

Snyder also provided the ironwork for the 1871 Columbian Building, now Sam Miller’s Exchange Cafe. The building possesses galvanized cornices and cast iron window caps. The most impressive use of iron in the building is the attenuated Corinthian columns used to support the roof of the third floor Exchange Room. The Columbian Building was Richmond’s corn and grain exchange and the Exchange Room is one of the most important early commercial spaces remaining in the city.

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Baldwin & Jenkins — 1321 ½ East Main Street, the skinniest building in Richmond

March 2020 — Asa Snyder ironfronts at Baldwin & Jenkins — 1321 ½ East Main Street, the skinniest building in Richmond

The most curious of the fronts is a minuscule building inserted in a 7 ½ foot space on Main Street. While painted to match the adjacent Southern Railroad Supply Building, this structure is completely different and distinct. It was made by Architectural Ironworks of Richmond, one of Snyder’s firms. [CAW]

March 2020 — Baldwin & Jenkins ironfront detail

March 2020 — Baldwin & Jenkins ironfront detail

The man got around. Or rather men. As noted above, Asa Snyder died in 1884, leaving the business to his son, Asa K. Snyder. The son himself would die in 1892 at the tender age of 32, and despite a Richmond Times advertisement from 1894, the end of the company was nigh.

March 2020 — looking towards 1008-1012 East Cary Street

March 2020 — looking towards 1008-1012 East Cary Street

The block where the foundry stood would be substantially altered with the construction of the First & Merchants National Bank Building in 1973, which eliminated the portion of Eleventh Street that used to run through it. The image above is an approximation of where Eleventh Street would have been (right), putting Architectural Iron Works somewhere in the center.

Snyder also made contributions to Old City Hall. The Shockoe Examiner has an excellent article on old spiral staircases, which includes the iron staircase in the clock tower. Good reading!

(Architectural Iron Works is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


Print Sources

  • [AAA] Allison & Addison’s Handbook of the Garden, Seed Catalog, and Almanac for 1868.
  • [CAW] Cast and Wrought. Robert P. Withrop. 1980.
  • [IOR] Industries of Richmond. James P. Wood. 1886.
  • [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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Wholesale and Retail, Wines and Liquors

A look back at the corner 18th and Franklin Streets.

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Wholesale and Retail, Wines and Liquors
Mr. S. W. Robinson, Prop.
Corner 18th and Franklin Sts.

Spottswood W. Robinson was born in King William Co., Va. Dec. 15, 1858, attended school in the country only six months and has never attended any educational institution since. He left King William Co., and came to Richmond and stayed with Dr. O. A. Crenshaw attending to milk dairy etc. He remained with him about one year. He then went to Mr. N. J. Smith and remained with him in business from ‘71 to ’79. At that time he went into business for himself on Main St., bet. 18th and 19th Sts. He removed then to 16 N. 18th St., and from there to his present location, No. 23 N. 18th St. (Richmond Planet)

And there’s Masonic Hall right behind where this used to be.


(Wholesale and Retail, Wines and Liquors is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)


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