Address: 2500 West Broad St
Now known as a primary educational and cultural feature of the city, the inscribed words “Union Station of Richmond” upon the Science Museum’s facade underneath a grand clock recall the honored past of the proud neoclassical edifice as a beacon for transportation, a gateway to the city. Prior to its use as a train station however, the site was used for Civil War military encampments, state fairs, and grounds for professional baseball teams. Purchased by Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Rail Lines, the company originally envisioned a leisurely commuter station for the site, but an international competition in 1913 gave way to a design by the famous architect John Russell Pope, his only commission for a commercial building.
Pope emphasized the grandeur of the station by placing it back from the street, creating a promenade up the slight slope. Similar to many neoclassical buildings of the same scale, a monumental doric colonnade of Indiana limestone is symmetrically organized by a 100 foot high dome. This is balanced with steel and cast iron canopies and bracings, forming a grand yet refined composition.
Train services boomed during World War II, with 57 trains passing through the station every day. But ridership declined, and train services eventually migrated to Staples Mill Rd. The building was sold to the state of Virginia in 1976, who planned to demolish it with intentions of building a new office park, before successful preservation efforts intervened and the Science Museum of Virginia found a permanent home.
Major draws of the museum include a massive pendulum suspended from the domed rotunda and an attached IMAX theater to the west of the building. Notable instances of architecture also occur outside the building proper, with the grounds in front boasting the world’s largest Kugel as well as the site for each annual Solar Decathlon House designed by Virginia Tech architecture students. Behind the museum, a small part of the original train yard remains with a small car, used mainly for parties and events, a vestige of the building’s former life.
Mebane, L. (2009, December 30). History of broad st station. Retrieved from http://sciencemuseumofvirginia.blogspot.com/2009/12/history-of-broad-street-station_9387.html
nps.gov. (n.d.). Broad st station. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/richmond/BroadStreetStation.html