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Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
Broad Street Station

Broad Street Station

Broad Street Station
City of Richmond Departmentof Community Development

The only railroad station distinguished American architect John Russell Pope ever designed, this Neoclassical masterpiece served the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac (RF&P) Railroad lines from its completion in 1919 until 1975. The former Broad Street Station now serves as the Science Museum of Virginia, which recently completed a multi-million dollar renovation that retained the bulk of the building’s historic character. The history of Broad Street Station goes as far back as 1904, when RF&P bought the old fairgrounds at Broad and Davis Streets. The site was once the location of Civil War military encampments, hosted the annual state fair, and was home to ballparks for some of the country's first professional baseball teams. The railroad company first developed the site as the Hermitage Country Club, to encourage leisurely Richmonders to take the train on excursions out to what was then the western edge of the city.

As Richmond grew, RF&P hoped to convert the old fairground property into a fashionable residential neighborhood akin to the then-new Fan District that was developing on the other side of Broad Street. The scheme for residential development never came to pass. In 1913, RF&P and the Richmond and Petersburg Railway (R &P), which cooperatively shared connecting rail lines, held an international competition for the design of a new "Union" Station. Later that year, they selected New York architect John Russell Pope as the designer. Pope, one of the most prominent architects of his time, had designed many government buildings, monuments, and private homes. Although he had never designed a commercial building before, his Neoclassical design for the new station made an impression. Pope’s legendary work includes the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives, and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as the one-of-a-kind Branch House in Richmond.

Broad Street Station2

Broad Street Station
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

Groundbreaking for the project began on January 6, 1917. Scheduled to take 18 months and projected to cost just over $1 million, the project suffered from a lack of skilled workers and increases in material prices due to World War I. After alteration and simplification of the plans, Union Station opened six months late and almost $2 million over budget. The first train pulled out at 1:07pm on January 6, 1919, two years to the day after the station's groundbreaking. Locally, the station quickly took on the name Broad Street Station and became increasingly busy over the next 25 years, peaking during World War II with an average of 57 trains a day. Following World War II, passenger rail traffic through Richmond steadily decreased, and slowly the city's railroad stations began to close. In 1958, the remaining Seaboard passenger trains shifted from Main Street Station to Broad Street Station. In 1971, Amtrak took over the remaining passenger trains in Richmond, and in 1972 moved operations to a new station off Staples Mill Road, west of the city. At 4:58 AM on November 15, 1975, the last passenger train rolled out of Broad Street Station.

Broad Street Station is yet another of Richmond’s notable buildings that narrowly averted destruction; in 1976 RF&P sold the property to the State of Virginia, which began to make plans to demolish the station. Rather than spend the money necessary to convert the historic train station into modern office space, the state planned to clear the land and construct new buildings for a satellite office park. Fortunately, efforts to save the building proved effective. In 1976, the state allowed the nascent Science Museum to temporarily move into part of the old station while plans for the new office park were still on the drawing boards. The museum’s presence quickly became permanent, and the state subsequently agreed to build its office park around the building rather than destroy it. On January 6, 1977, Governor Godwin presided over the dedication of the Science Museum's first exhibit gallery, The Discovery Room. The event celebrated the 58th anniversary of the building, the rebirth of Broad Street Station, and the culmination of over 70 years of effort to establish the Science Museum of Virginia. Today, the station’s central copper dome and Doric portico in Indiana limestone continue to provide a prominent and lasting landmark along West Broad Street.

Plan your visit
Broad Street Station is located at 2500 W. Broad St. The Science Museum of Virginia, which is housed in the building, includes an IMAX Theater. The museum is open Monday–Saturday, 9:30am to 5:00pm and Sunday, 11:30am to 5:00pm. Call 804-864-1400 or 800-659-1727 or visit the museum's website. An admission fee is charged. The Science Museum is adjacent to the recently-developed Children's Museum of Richmond.
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