- 208 East Grace Street
- Built, 1930
- Architect, H. Carl Messerschmidt
An overlooked Art Deco gem on Grace
For O. P. Brinser, Carl Messerschmidt created a jewel of architectural ornamentation. No other small building in the city has such a lavish display of sculpted decoration.
The style of the building was assertively modern with vertical pylons and an unusual central entrance. The ornamentation is related peculiarly to early Christian design motifs.
Traditionally, the grapes and vine were symbolic of either holy communion or drinking and revelry. The second interpretation was unlikely in Prohibition era Richmond. The first is inappropriate for a commercial building.
Art Deco ornamentation is concerned rarely with meaning or symbolism. It has been enjoyed for its decorative properties alone. This is clearly the case here.The signage on the building is an almost perfect example of what a sign should not be and where it should not be located.
Moreover, numerous holes in the superb decoration indicated that this is not the first bad sign. Poor signs defacing fine buildings are a recurrent theme in American downtowns. [ADR]
Grace Street is littered with cool little buildings like this one — small commercial spaces constructed with actual time spent considering the aesthetics of the thing. Foster Studios or the Cokesbury Building just two blocks away are other examples.
(Brinser Building is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [ADR] Architecture in Downtown Richmond. Robert P. Winthrop. 1982.
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