Sunday, September 2, 2018

Can you name what block this is in Richmond?

This is a very rare view of a certain street in Richmond. The time period is ca. 1920s. What street, block number, and is it the north or south side of the street?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Richmond’s Version of the Anne Hathaway Cottage: A Little-known Companion to Virginia House and Agecroft in Windsor Farms.

In the early 1900s, America was in the ascendency and captains of industry like the DuPonts, the Astors, and the Rockefellers celebrated by emulating the tastes and customs of British aristocracy.  Richmond was no exception to this trend, and by the late 1920s a solidly Anglophile culture was drawn to a development west of Richmond named Windsor Farms. 

In contrast to the grand homes being built around the turn of the century, these wealthy Richmonders felt the Colonial Revival and Tudor revival styles so popular on Monument Avenue were only poor imitations the genuine architecture of the past.  They wanted something even more true to the English ideal, something real.

Ambassador Alexander Wedell and his next-door neighbor, Thomas C. Williams, Jr. took authenticity to its utmost expression in Windsor Farms.  It was termed Richmond’s first planned community and the first that acknowledged the ascendency of automobile culture in the design of the subdivision.  Windsor Farms, with its village green, brick sidewalks, and bucolic vistas was designed as an English town, beefed up to American standards but still evocative of village life as seen through the rosy lenses of its residents. 

An illustration of the original Anne Hathaway cottage in England, from the Windsor Farms magazine, “The Black Swan,” February 1928.

Not content with modern houses made of modern materials, Wedell and Williams both went to England and bought entire buildings constructed hundreds of years before, and from these materials created the Weddells’ Virginia House and Williams’ Agecroft Hall.  Large sections of centuries-old English homes were reassembled within sight of each other on Sulgrave Road to create these estates, and each house stood in a Charles Gillette-designed formal garden. 

Gillette (1886-1969), termed the father of the “Virginia Garden,” drew on the same nostalgia for Britain that fueled the expense and style of the two reconstructed English manor houses in Windsor Farms.  With his palate of brick and slate hardscapes punctuated by well-chosen plantings, Gillette was the perfect landscape architect to design the English-ish setting for these two unusual homes.

A 1928 article in Windsor Farms’ neighborhood magazine, the “Black Swan,” noted the architect for the reconstruction of what became Virginia House and Agecroft was Henry Morse (1884-1934).  Morse, it was said, “thought it would be a pity not to have a fine type of English cottage in an English village.”  The architype English cottage chosen was the house that was famous as the home of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway.  The original house in England was built in 1463 and Hathaway was born there in 1556.  According to the Black Swan article, architect Morse liked the idea but had no documentation of the original building, so produced a design of the house from a picture post card of the Anne Hathaway cottage.

A vintage picture postcard of the Anne Hathaway cottage in England.  Architect William Morse is said to have taken a similar postcard and from it designed the house in Richmond.

Richmond’s version of the Anne Hathaway cottage, on Tonbridge Road in Windsor Farms.  Its lush landscaping has grown since 1928 to add to the desired impression of a house hundreds of years old.

The house Morse designed in 1928 still stands today at 106 Tonbridge Road and has been owned by the same family for more than fifty years.  A 1967 newspaper article about this cottage notes that as a concession to Richmond weather, the house in Windsor Farms does not have a thatched roof but one constructed of especially steamed cedar shingles, formed and bent to give the proper flow and appearance of thatch.  The passage of ninety years since it was built have softened the landscape of Richmond’s Anne Hathaway Cottage, and the wall along the street is today lush with deep green moss.  What was an empty subdivision lot when Henry Morse pinned that postcard to the top of his drawing board is now graced with huge oaks, all contributing to the illusion of being, like the original, in Olde Warwickshire, England.

Henry Morse’s architectural patrons, Wedell and Williams, spent vast sums trying to get their little slices of England correct in design and effect.  Taking a subtler but still quite deliberate path, during construction of the Anne Hathaway cottage, beams were intentionally installed slightly unevenly.  Windows were not evenly spaced, and doorways were built slightly off-center to create the impression of a hand-hewn framework and the construction imperfections that might be found in a fifteenth-century house.

The roof of Richmond’s Anne Hathaway cottage has been designed to mimic straw thatching, but with the concession of modern shingles.

The Hathaway cottage, or the idea of it, spread around the world and each instance is an attempt, as was seen in Windsor Farms, to evoke that same authenticity of England past. Such is the appearance of the Anne Hathaway cottage, with its charming appearance and mythic associations, it has become the epitome of English cottage life and all that implies.  The cottage is evocative of an earlier time, an idealized state when yeomen Englishmen lived simple and honorable lives and nearby, Shakespeare forged the most iconic of English literature.  The denizens of Windsor Farms were not unique in summoning an idealized past, as embodied in the walls of an English cottage.  Versions of Anne Hathaway’s cottage, with greater or lesser accuracy, appear all over the world, each attempting to draw on the history and charm of the English original.

 Virginia’s second Anne Hathaway cottage, located in Staunton.

There is a version of the building constructed relatively recently in Staunton, Virginia.  Built in 2007, the Anne Hathaway Cottage Tea Room serves English high teas in its appropriately decorated rooms, often in connection with the nearby American Shakespeare Center. 

The Australian version of the Anne Hathaway cottage.

In Bedfordshire, Western Australia, stands another version of Anne Hathaway’s house.  Consistent with Henry Morse’s notion of “a fine type of English cottage in an English village,” this house was built by an English engineer named Leo Fowler in the 1970s as part of an entire Elizabethan village.  Fowler’s version is unusual in that it was apparently made from measured drawings of the original house in England, permission having been obtained from the trust that owns the real Anne Hathaway cottage.

A “half-Hathaway” in South Dakota. Here, only part of Anne Hathaway’s cottage is needed to suggest the charm of Old World England.

So strong is the of history and charm of the Anne Hathaway cottage, in one case only half the house is needed to evoke Shakespearian England.  Described as “the only structure with a thatched roof in South Dakota,” the Anne Hathaway Cottage in Wessington Springs is a copy of only the two-story half of the original.  It was built in 1932 by a Professor Shay and his wife, Emma, who were impressed by their travels around England in the 1920s.  Interestingly, this version of the Anne Hathaway house is also cited as having been designed from a postcard picture of the original.  The website for the South Dakota house says the house is “said to be an excellent likeness of the left half.”

The Anne Hathaway cottage in Odessa, Texas.

A thousand miles to the south stands another variation of Anne Hathaway’s home, this time in Odessa, Texas.  Built in 1988, this version of the cottage is an adjunct building to a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe theater, together comprising an institution grandly known as The Globe of the Great Southwest. 

This version of the Anne Hathaway cottage once stood in Victoria, British Columbia.  It was torn down in 2017.

There was a copy of the Anne Hathaway cottage that stood as part of a complex called “English Inn & Resort” in Victoria, British Columbia.  A photo taken before the house was demolished shows the roof forlornly covered with plastic sheeting – cool and wet British Columbia being perhaps even less friendly to thatched roofs than Richmond.  Expansion of the resort, combined with high maintenance costs resulted in the loss of this building. 

Each instance of Anne Hathaway’s home was built for deliberate effect, whether to evoke the memory of Shakespeare himself in connection with a theater, or as a contributing building to an inn or garden, or as a residence.  In every case, the intention was to summon up the charm and solid architecture of an idealized version of English history.  Each design is a variation on the theme, but each also draws on that romantic name and story of Anne Hathaway and her famous playwright husband. 

In 1928 “The Black Swan” gushed that Morse’s Anne Hathaway cottage “…makes one feel that a real portion of old England has been transported to the English village on the banks of the James River...”  Although it was far less grand and far less expensive than the nearby reconstructed manor houses, Morse’s vision of Anne Hathaway’s English cottage still reflects the same faith in mythic Anglo-American roots, the design and societal values of a very specific time, and the unique context of suburban Richmond in the 1920s.

- Selden Richardson. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Ramones in Richmond, Virginia.

The Ramones play the Flood Zone, May 4, 1995. 

Great image from the Richmond Music Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, June 1995.
Photo by Tammy Rosenson. 

[Just a little shout out to the RMJ

The Ramones played Richmond, Virginia at least 8 times - MAYBE - I documented 5 times from various sources (Commonwealth Times, Throttle, and the Richmond Music Journal). [see update below]

The other dates are from a Wikipedia site that lists concert dates by the Ramones. But they do not cite where they got the info., so... I need your help. Send me an email at with a citation (show me a ticket, a newspaper clipping,etc. ). I may try to go the microfilm or a digital database for coverage in the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Richmond News-Leader in the coming months to see what else I can find. But feel free to write me with information. According to the Oct. 25, 1977 issue of the Commonwealth Times the Ramones were scheduled to play in Oct. of 1977 at club in Richmond called the Pass. They didn't show up. The show went on though - Ricky and the White Boys played as did Single Bullet Theory. 

UPDATE -  June 25, 2018 - I checked out the Richmond Times-Dispatch tonight (online version of its archives up to 1986 via a genealogy site) and found documentation for a few more shows. We are now up to 7 confirmed shows with a few more to add from the feedback I got on my Facebook post. I'll add those and some more images soon. - Ray 

The Ramones play Richmond:

October 30, 1976 –  The Franklin Street Gym, VCU, Richmond, Virginia. Source was The Commonwealth Times. Single Bullet Theory and Rocking Horse opened the show. The Franklin Street Gym was sometimes referred to as the Old Gym.  Source:  The Commonwealth Times, Oct, 29, 1976.

Image of Calendar from The Commonwealth Times, Oct, 29, 1976.

October 28, 1978 – The Franklin Street Gym, VCU, Richmond, Virginia. Source: The Commonwealth Times, Oct. 32, 1978. See images below. 

July 24, 1983, Much More Club, 2729 W. Broad Street, Richmond. Same location where The Broadberry is today and where the Cellar Door was also located. The opening band was the Violent Femmes. Source: Throttle, The Commonwealth Times, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, issue of July 25, 1983. The RTD review wrote that it was an “audience of about 450.”

May 31, 1984 - Cellar Door, 2729 W. Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia. Local band Beex opened the show. The review in the Richmond Times-Dispatch said it was a "crowd of about 450." Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, June 1, 1984.

May 28, 1985 - Cellar Door, 2729 W. Broad Street, Richmond, Virginia. Local band Suzy Saxon and the Anglos opened the show. Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 24, 1985. A second source was a concert review by Mark Holmberg  in the May 29, 1985 issue of the RTD. See image below. 

May 13, 1990, The Flood Zone, Richmond, Virginia. Source: Throttle and The Commonwealth Times.

June 22, 1991 (according to this SITE)

May 4, 1995, The Flood Zone, 11 S. 18th St. Richmond, Virginia. Source: the Richmond Music Journal, v,2, no. 8, June 1995, and issue no. 120, April 1, 1995 of Throttle which provided the date of May 4th. 


Oct. 31 1978 issue of The Commonwealth Times.

Oct. 31 1978 issue of The Commonwealth Times

Oct. 31 1978 issue of The Commonwealth Times.

Oct. 31 1978 issue of The Commonwealth Times.

Richmond Music Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, June 1995

Richmond Music Journal, vol. 2, no. 8, June 1995

Throttle magazine, vol. 3, no. 9, Sept. 1983.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 29, 1985 

- Ray, 

Again if you have more info. on the Ramones playing Richmond, 
please email me at

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Richmond’s Worst Airplane Disaster: Flight 201/8 - November 8, 1961.- An Update

Back in November of 2013, Selden had posted his essay on the crash of Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 which took place in Charles City County on November 8, 1961. Seventy-four U.S. Army recruits heading to Columbia, SC died in the crash along with three of the five crew members. The Department of Historic Resources has just announced that a state historical marker will be dedicated this month in memory of the event in Richmond. Why the marker will not be at the actual crash site in Charles City County is not clear. For some reason, it will be placed in downtown Richmond at the corner of  2nd and Spring Streets.  

The DHR press release follows Selden's essay which we are reposting below.


Had they lived, by now they would all be in their 70s.  The old men would be enjoying retirement; puttering around with grandchildren and probably looking back at typically American lives from the vantage point of old age.  A few may have stayed in the military and continued to serve their country, a process that would have begun for them in November 1961.  For many on the trip down to South Carolina, this was their first plane ride.  For the rest, the passage of fifty years would by now have gently buffed away the memory of how they got to basic training and the flight would have seemed as forgettable as a routine bus ride.

Instead, they all died in the middle of the night, in the piney woods east of Richmond, unable to move from multiple fractures and trapped in a burning metal tube.  Instead of living to a ripe old age, seventy-four young men died on November 8, 1961, burned to death or dead from smoke inhalation.  It was one of this country’s worst air disasters, and it occurred in the woods of Charles City County just a couple of miles from what is now Richmond International Airport.  Today, dense pines have again shrouded the site.  No highway marker tells their story and no memorial marks where these young soldiers fell.

Instead, the problem was, in aviation slang, the “nonskeds.”  These were airlines, often established by ex-Air Force personnel with war surplus aircraft, who operated without set schedules but instead stood by in various degrees of airworthiness to serve government demands, like a flying taxi service.  The penny-pinching non-scheduled or “nonskeds” could often outbid regular carriers for government contracts, although it later became obvious that this was at a terrible price.

    A Lockheed Constellation of the same type that crashed near Richmond in 1961.
This particular airplane has the markings of the U.S. Air Force.

Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 was a Lockheed Constellation; a World War II vintage design with a distinctive triple tail.  The “Connie” had originally been intended for a long-range troop transport, but after the war was used as a civilian airliner.  The accident at Byrd Field was not the first time a Constellation had fallen from the sky around Richmond: a decade before an Eastern Airlines flight had made a crash landing without injuries in a field at Curles Neck Farm, just to the east of Richmond, in 1951.  The last Constellation was produced in 1958 and was going out of service with the major carriers, but for the “nonsked” airlines, with their mercenary practices and cost-cutting maintenance, anything that would cheaply carry a large number of bodies was ideal.

One of the “nonskeds” was called Regina Cargo Airlines.  Writing in a 2011 newsletter of the Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society, historian Linda Burdette noted that Regina Airlines was almost immediately in trouble after its establishment in 1953 when one of its planes went down in Centralia Washington, killing 21 people.  In 1959, the airline was fined for operating an unsafe C-46 airplane with 30 Marines on board.  By 1961, it had changed its name and was operating as Imperial Airlines.

Imperial Airlines flight 201/8 was typical of a “nonsked” in that it was hired by the Army to collect new recruits to transport them for basic training in South Carolina.  Early on November 8, 1961, the flight began in Columbia, South Carolina and flew north, with new soldiers getting on, first in Newark, New Jersey and more in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, with the last stop being Baltimore before heading back to South Carolina.

Before they left for the airport in Newark, 28 would-be soldiers met in the Patterson, New Jersey City Hall that morning and were photographed for the local newspaper.  They are dressed against the New Jersey winter, in sweaters and jackets, white shoes and loafers, and they carry small suitcases.  In the photograph a few of the faces look uncertain and thoughtful, but the majority smile with the good cheer of young men about to embark on an excursion.  Of the twenty-eight men in the photograph, twenty-two took the oath to join the Army.  Six were rejected for various bureaucratic reasons and returned to their homes while the rest who appeared in the photograph boarded Imperial Airlines and were dead within hours.

   A group photograph of 28 men to be inducted into the Army, photographed hours before the crash. Of this group, six did not board Flight 201/8 and the rest were killed near Richmond.

The young lives that had been lost in the woods of Charles City County drew to a close with startling rapidity.  Historian Burdette recounted the typical last day of one 22-year-old from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who was on Flight 201/8.  That morning he had said goodbye to his parents, leaving at noon.  The Army supplied box lunches for the passengers, invoking the innocence and hominess of a high school field trip. That afternoon the young man from Bethlehem was sworn into the United States Army.  By 4:30 the next morning his father got a phone call from a New York newspaper asking if he knew his son was dead and asking what was his reaction to the horrific crash that incinerated his child.

The crew of the Constellation that was Flight 201/8 was unusual that day, and as a direct result, confusion about command and orders given and orders rescinded were later cited as one of the main reasons the airplane crashed.  Captain Ronald Conway and First Officer James Greenlee were of equal rank, but Conway assumed command of the plane. When an emergency occurred over Virginia, both men seemed to be in command and issued orders at cross-purposes that contributed to the crash.  Flight Engineer William Poythress was training a student, who was onboard during the flight.  A stewardess, Linda Johns, was the fifth crewmember.

This diagram shows the path Flight 201/8 took over the Richmond airport
and shows the spot where the airplane crashed near the runway.

From the collection of the Virginia Aviation Historical Society.

From the start, things went wrong with the supply of fuel to the four engines of the Constellation.  The Flight Engineer corrected this by opening a fuel valve for two of the engines, although the Captain wasn’t informed, nor were any corrective steps taken during the subsequent stops.  While this complicated and tragic exchange was taking place in the cockpit of the Constellation, with pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer all acting at cross-purposes, the passengers of Flight 201/8 would have quickly sensed something was very wrong.
The change in pitch of the four propeller engines must have been quite noticeable inside the plane, let alone the ominous silence from one side of the fuselage after two engines quit completely.  As the pilots fought the controls for a second pass at the runway, the lights of Byrd Field must have flashed by at a crazy angle while the plane executed a wide, banking turn over the entire airport, then banked again sharply to the right, out over the utter blackness of the pines.  Just before the impact, the third of four engines stopped.  There must have been just the slightest moment of comparative quiet, followed by a scream from the one remaining engine as it desperately accelerated, forcing the nose of the plane up.  Flight 208/1 managed to claw its way up to 700 feet.  And then it fell into the woods below.

Dawn on November 9, 1961, shows the distinctive tail section of the Constellation
as one of the few recognizable parts of the plane left as the rest of the wreckage still smolders.

A. P. Webb, a ticket agent at Byrd Field, watched the flight of the Constellation against the cold night sky.  “It started to settle,” he said, “as if it were stalling… Suddenly the horizon lit up.  After the pinkish glow died down, a great ball of flames came up.”  The plane had landed about a mile from the airport in a low pinewood, near Charles City Road.  Rescue units from the airport, National Guard members and civilians who forced their way through the brambles and pines to the wreckage would remember the crazy shadows cast by the trees from the roaring fire, dancing shadows from which two men wandered.

Conway, the pilot, was of slim build and was able to wriggle out of one of the broken cockpit windows as the rest of the plane blazed.  Bill Poythress opened the door to the cabin of the plane immediately after the crash and “heard a certain amount of noise, like people hollering.  They weren’t hollering real loud, like 90 per cent of them were stunned and couldn’t tell what happened.  I could see figures in the smoke and fire.”  Poythress leaped from the crew door in the fuselage and managed to run, terrified, through the flames and scramble across the shattered and burning trees that surrounded the crash site.  He and Captain Conway were the only ones to escape the plane, now entirely engulfed by a column of flame that rose above the pines.

 The front page of the Richmond newspapers
reflected the shock at the loss of life the night before.

The two men, suffering with burns and smoke inhalation, were taken to the Medical College of Virginia.  Behind them, hundreds of the curious were making their way to the crash site, parking along Charles City Road and pressing through the gullies and marsh to see the site.  Police with dogs were deployed to keep the curious away, but still traffic was jammed with parked cars for miles.  Such was the crush of sightseers, a Richmond newspaper reported, that “Thousands of would-be spectators, halted by massive traffic jams and warnings from police, never got near the flaming wreckage.”

As the gray dawn turned to morning, smoke hung in the trees as the wreckage cooled to the point that the dead could be removed.  From the position of the badly burned bodies, it was obvious that many on the plane had left their seats and attempted to get out of the airplane.  The greatest number of dead were found piled near the main cabin door, which was jammed shut from the impact or from debris piled against the wreckage.  In a horrific detail, the Medical Examiner said many of the dead had fractures of legs and arms, perhaps as a result of trying to claw their way out of the burning airplane.  The glum conclusion was that virtually everybody on the plane had died, not from the impact, but were instead killed after the crash by either flames or smoke.  No safety procedures for passengers were reviewed before takeoff and apparently nobody was told about the over the wing exits that might have saved them.

Still dressed in his hospital pajamas and sitting beside his wife, Beverly, Pilot Conway tries to explain to the press what happened to Flight 201/8.  He and the Flight Engineer were the only survivors of the crash.

The fate of the young soldiers was national news.  Time Magazine, in particular, took an interest in the subject of the “nonsked” airlines.  After a four-week investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Board into the crash, Time said, “…it seemed a wonder that Imperial’s Constellation had got off the ground in the first place.”  The article cited the following problems: Pilot Conway had failed some of his flight tests, and Imperial Airlines planes regularly had so many problems they routinely took up half the time of a Federal Aviation Inspector in Miami who reported hydraulic leakages, faulty fuel indicators, improper rigging of fuel mixture controls, bald tires, and fuel seeping out of the plane and onto the ground.  In addition, Time noted the doomed plane’s fuel was contaminated with rust, that the crews couldn’t determine the condition of the plane because the logbooks were not up to date, and the confusion in the cockpit that lead to the loss of the fuel-starved engines.  Perhaps the revelation most indicative of the miserable quality of airplane maintenance was that of Chief Flight Engineer John Mayfield, who recounted not having a part for a motor on an Imperial Airlines plane and substituted a piece taken from a 1954 Mercury automobile.

  A Fort Lee honor guard stands near some of the 77 flag-draped coffins that were prepared
to be transportedt back to the home towns of the young men killed on Flight 201/8.

The Army mortuary unit at Fort Lee began their grim task of trying to identify the horribly burned bodies.  All were eventually returned to their relatives, with dozens of flag-draped coffins making their way back to big cities and small towns in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.  Twenty-eight of the dead were from the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, and this was a devastating blow to this close-knit and largely Irish area.  The town of Bethlehem, in the Lehigh Valley, is the site of the only memorial ever made to any of the victims of the crash of Flight 201/8.  There, in a park beside a highway, a small granite marker with the simple inscription, “Dedicated to air crash victims – U.S. Army, Nov. 8, 1961” lists the names of the fourteen men from Bethlehem who died.

The site of the crash of Flight 201/8 is an otherwise undistinguished
patch of Virginia pine woods located about a mile from the present
day Richmond International Airport.

The passage of fifty years has erased any sign of the crash of Flight 201/8 in the pinewoods of Charles City County.  Even the stretch of Charles City Road that was once lined with fire engines, National Guard trucks, and the cars of the curious who were drawn to the towering fire in the woods has been cut off by construction of Interstate 295, and that part of the once-busy road is now a dead end.  No historical marker marks the place where so many young men, soldiers for only hours, died horrible deaths because of incompetence and greed.  Today, only a few aviation buffs and the relatives of the dead now recall the horror of their useless sacrifice.  They remember all too well, as must six old men from New Jersey who couldn’t take their oath to join the Army that November so long ago, and missed meeting an awful fate on Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8.

- Selden, Nov., 2013. [NOTE - the Dept. of Historic Resources announced in June of 2018 that a marker will be placed - see the press release reprinted below].


State Historical Highway Marker
“Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8”
To Be Dedicated in Richmond

The crash of Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 on Nov. 8, 1961 was the worst at that time in Virginia history, second-deadliest in U.S. history for a single civilian aircraft; 
The marker text is reproduced below

RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this month in Richmond that recalls an Imperial Airlines flight that crashed southeast of the city on November 8, 1961.  At that time it was the worst crash in Virginia history and the second deadliest single civilian aircraft in U.S. history, and it resulted in an investigation and Congressional mandates in 1962 over some charter carriers.
The ceremony to dedicate the marker begins at 1 p.m., Thursday, June 21, at the marker’s location at the intersection of South 2nd and Spring Streets in Richmond. The event is open to the public with parking available along Spring Street.

Speakers at the ceremony will include state Senator Dave Marsden, who introduced in 2017 Senate Resolution #104 that the General Assembly passed to recognize crash victims, and Matt Gottlieb of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
On board Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8 were 74 U.S. Army recruits heading to Columbia, SC, who perished along with three of five crew members, according to the marker.
“At fault were poor airline management, substandard maintenance, and crew error,” the marker states.

An investigation “of the charter aircraft industry revealed many violations of safety standards.” Congress mandated that “all supplemental carriers reapply for certification by the Civil Aeronautics Board and meet stricter insurance and financial requirements,” the marker concludes.

The Imperial Airlines marker was approved for manufacture and installation in June 2017 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which has the authority to designate new state historical markers. The sign’s manufacturing costs have been covered by its sponsor Phyllis McKoy, Paula Kirk, and the Friends of the Historical Roadside Marker Project.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Richmond.

[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]

Text of marker:
Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8

Imperial Airlines Flight 201/8, carrying 74 U.S. Army recruits to Columbia, SC, crashed southeast of Richmond on 8 Nov. 1961. All of the recruits and three of five crew members perished. At the time, the crash was the worst in Virginia history and the second-deadliest in U.S. history for a single civilian aircraft. At fault were poor airline management, substandard maintenance, and crew error. The tragedy resulted in an investigation of the charter aircraft industry that revealed many violations of safety standards. In 1962 Congress mandated that all supplemental carriers reapply for certification by the Civil Aeronautics Board and meet stricter insurance and financial requirements.

Friday, June 8, 2018

What a Long, Strange Trip It Has Been: the Journey of 1001 East Main Street [Richmond's first skycraper - the First National Bank Building]

To the casual observer of Richmond architecture, the eleven-story office building at 1001 East Main Street is simply a fortunate survivor of the number of Renaissance Revival buildings that once lined Richmond’s financial zone.  As with banks and other financial services buildings, these were among those building types that had demonstrate their classic elegance and gravitas at a glance.  More importantly, in the days before deposit insurance, banks had to also radiate physical strength and security in their design and materials. 

A close look at the American National Bank building today bearing traces of a tortured architectural history and that of a building whipsawed by changes in taste and design. An indication of the building’s early history is a seam that runs up the middle of the front facade.  

Image of the proposed building from the
June 21, 1903 front page of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Another front page view of the bank this time showing construction
- from the Jan. 9, 1904 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. 

The original American National Bank Building, designed by the Washington architectural firm of Wyatt and Noting in 1904, was a dramatically thin three-bay structure which must have enjoyed some hurricane-force cross ventilation on the upper floors.  The exterior was rather plain, except for a richly ornamented entry at the corner of Tenth and Main Streets.

A postcard showing the original 1904 design of
1001 East Main Street, the American National Bank Building.

The American National Bank building as redesigned by Charles K. Bryant in 1909.

The building was heavily modified by Richmond architect Charles K. Bryant in 1909.  Bryant took the existing building and doubled it, creating a Siamese twin to the east.  At the same time three more stories and an elaborate curved cornice and other details were added, such as colored terra-cotta and decorative balconies.  There were now two arched entrances, tied together visually with an elaborate plaque.  

The doubled and taller American National Bank Building stood as Bryant designed it for forty years before being “modernized” in the 1960s.  The firm of Armstrong and Solomansky stripped off all of the decoration of 1001 East Main and substituted a brutally plain dark metal skin.  Much of the fenestration on the Tenth Street side was covered by a brick screen wall which wrapped around the Main Street side, and only the arched openings remained to hint at the building’s history and original design.

The flayed exterior of 1001 East Main Street after a 1960s-vintage redesign.

In 2003, the bank building was once again redesigned and the dreadful metal skin removed.  What the visitor sees now is not an early Twentieth-century office building, but one that has been re-imagined as its earlier self.  Using the original architectural drawings as a guide, architects reinterpreted the original Bryant design in modern materials. 

The gracefully curved cornice and parapet were back as were the balconies, which now run down the length of the Tenth Street side of the building.  The use of terra-cotta details was more subdued, but the look and feel of the original silhouette of Bryant’s building once again graces the Richmond skyline.  It is ironic that so much energy and money has been spent to return the building to a close semblance of its former self, validating the design Charles Bryant proposed more than a hundred years ago.

The American National Bank as it appears today,
not restored but well re-imagined by architects in 2003.In this image you can see the seam of the two buildings running from top to bottom. 

A detail of the “new” 2003 cornice of 1001 East Main Street.
That seam of the two buildings is even more apparent. 

A recent view of the left side of the building.

- Selden.