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Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
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Branch House

Branch House

Branch House
Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Well-known American architect John Russell Pope designed the Branch House in 1916 as a winter residence for John Kerr Branch, a wealthy financier from a distinguished Virginia family. Pope also designed Broad Street Station, now Richmond's Science Museum, as well as the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The Branch House is the only property individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Monument Avenue, which is a prestigious National Historic Landmark district. Completed in 1919, the mansion is one of the earliest surviving examples of Tudor Revival architecture in Virginia and the only house designed by John Russell Pope in this style that still has its historic interior intact. Pope’s partner, Otto R. Eggers, helped design the house. The home contains a sprawling 27,000 square feet of space, dispersed over 11 discrete levels (some only partial), and its timeless exterior belies an underlying construction that was undeniably modern with elements such as fireproof concrete floors.

When he had the house built, Branch was a partner in the investment firm Thomas Branch and Company, president of the Merchants National Bank, and director of both the Petersburg Savings Insurance and Continental Insurance companies. He was an avid collector and intended his Richmond house to be an exhibition space for his collection of Italian Renaissance objects. Its imposing size and Tudor Revival style provided an appropriately impressive setting for his collection of furniture, woodwork, tapestries, textiles, and even armor. Branch’s choice of style was in accord with social and aesthetic preferences of wealthy Virginians of English descent during the first decades of the 20th century.

Notable features of the house include its surrounding brick privacy wall, the weathered brick and sandstone exterior, leaded windows, and interior ceilings with decorative plaster molding. The design incorporated an original Italian door and carved wood gallery screen from England, both dating to the Renaissance and part of Branch’s collection. The property remained in the Branch family until the 1950s, when the family bequeathed it to the United Givers Fund, a precursor to United Way. In 1982, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company bought it to use for its Richmond office. In that same year, the new owner donated a preservation easement to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

In 2003 after a period of sporadic use and neglect, the Virginia Center for Architecture acquired the house. Following two years of substantial rehabilitation, the Center opened in 2005, making the Branch House accessible to the public for the first time ever as one of the country's few architecture museums. Designed to house Branch’s collection of art and antiquities, the rooms on the ground floor of the building are of a scale well suited for use as a gallery space. Exhibitions are displayed in two large rooms – a long gallery hall along the northern wall of the house and, behind that, a “great hall”, which was the former living room. In addition to these two primary gallery spaces, the ground floor of the building houses a wonderful museum shop. A smaller room originally used as a chapel may eventually house a permanent exhibit on Monument Avenue.

Plan your visit
The Branch House is located at 2501 Monument Ave. and is now the Virginia Center for Architecture museum. It is accessible to the public free of charge Monday-Friday 10:00am to 5:00pm, Saturday and Sunday 1:00pm to 5:00pm. Call 804-644-3041 for information or visit the website. The Branch House has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey as part of the 2500 Block on Monument Avenue.
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