Postcard of the factory, ca. 1940s
Richmond’s industrial downtown is disappearing. Erased by a new generation of high-rise office buildings, the factories and manufacturing centers that once sent out tons of goods by rail and truck are all but gone. Tobacco Row, the factories on the eastern side of Shockoe Valley, still stands although are largely residential now, turned into condos and apartments.
The building as it appeared until recently.
A recently departed building at South 7th Street and Canal Street and was known as The Plaza Building. Originally constructed around 1925, the former Liggett & Myers factory was a cast concrete structure with brick infill on the exterior between concrete piers and floors. Its principal architectural feature was an entry for railroad cars on the corner of the building. The rail doorway was surrounded by simulated voussoirs (the wedge-shaped stones that define and support a stone arch) but which were actually cast into the concrete.
The former Liggett and Myers factory under demolition late 2016.
For decades this building served Leggett and Myers as factory and warehouse, turning out such now-vanished brands of cigarettes as Chesterfield, Lark, and L&M. Tons of cigarettes made their way out the corner loading dock, through the streets of Richmond in rail cars and across the country.
Chesterfield’s great modern factory.
The massive voussoirs were the only thing to survive the alteration of the former factory in 1975. All original character of the building was lost after the addition of concrete panels to the sides of the building and the windows linked with anodized spacers, creating a textbook example of drab, 70s office architecture. Only the railroad entrance and loading dock hinted at the factory’s former function as “Chesterfield’s Great Modern Factory.”
Proposed 20-story office towers for Dominion Virginia Power.
Dominion Virginia Power demolished the Liggett and Myers factory and intends to build a twenty-story office tower on the site. Today, Richmonders no longer wait in traffic for a train to shuttle boxcars in the streets, and factory workers no longer throng the stores and shops of downtown. Richmond’s industrial past bows to glass and chrome and a once-vital portion of our past continues to fade with the removal of old factories like the Liggett & Myers building.