4 Manchester Road
The Southern States Silo stands over the south bank of the James River. It is is located just south of the floodwall near the foot of the Mayo Bridge.
The silo was constructed in the 1940s and a grain elevator for Cargill Incorporated. According to a 1952 Richmond Times-Dispatch article, trucks sometimes lined the Mayo Bridge as they waited to deposit their grain. (1) Southern States, the farming cooperative, later bought the silo and painted the massive sign now well known to Richmonders. It was sold again to Purdue Farms in 2003, but the Southern States moniker remains.
The silo was the site of the 2016 installment of the RVA Street Art Festival, a event that showcases the work of local and international muralists. The base of the silo and other nearby structures served as the canvas for their large-scale works.
Rising above the murals, the silo itself has a powerful aesthetic presence. Its solid reinforced concrete walls, like those of the adjacent flood wall, are starkly utilitarian. The simplicity of the tower contrasts with the filigree of metal pipes and the textured brick walls of the smaller warehouses that skirt its base. It is a rough piece of infrastructure, not a self-conscious piece of architecture, but this form of raw, industrial beauty is compelling. It is no wonder that grain silos were a focus of Precisionist painters like Charles Sheeler and Charles Demuth.
The Southern States Silo is monument in its own right, and a symbol of Central Virginia’s agrarian roots. It has become an essential element of the character of Manchester.
“Mayo Bridge 1952.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1952, www.richmond.com/mayo-bridge/article_d5fea048-c32a-552a-8ecd-56741cb8fb90.html.