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From the Archives: The old WRVA building

From the Archives: The old WRVA building

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In April 1969, Alden Aaroe broadcasted from WRVA’s radio studio on Church Hill in Richmond. The one-story building, designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson, had opened a year earlier and welcomed more than 17,000 people on tours. It was made of concrete and featured what Johnson called “punched holes” for windows – rounded-corner rectangles that offered views of the Shockoe area and downtown. The half-million dollar building also possessed a striking free-standing tower.

The construction of the building was a collaboration between the Historic Richmond Foundation and Larus and Brothers Tobacco Co.’s president, William T. Reed. WRVA had to leave their previous space in the Hotel Richmond, which the station had occupied since 1933, when the state bought the hotel to use for offices. WRVA then made plans to build a new studio within city limits. Once the site on Church Hill was selected, Dr. English of the Historic Richmond Foundation and William T. Reed got to work to select an architect best-suited for the task. Dr. English suggested Johnson because of the interest the architect expressed in Church Hill during a visit to Richmond to judge an art show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Once Johnson accepted, it was decided to not make the building fit the architecture of the older neighboring homes which, were constructed from brick and iron. Instead, the building was constructed from concrete, but scaled to match the proportions of surrounding buildings.

The 75-foot tower was designed to make the building stand out across the valley in downtown Richmond. The sole purpose of the tower was aesthetic and it did not house any usable space for the radio station except for a place to hold the traffic helicopter antennae.

WRVA occupied the building for many years. In the mid 2000s, the building underwent a carefully planned renovation to maintain its architectural significance,  by Baskervill, a Richmond architecture firm. Today the former WRVA building houses Child Savers, a Richmond nonprofit group.

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