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Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
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Egyptian Building

Egyptian Building

Egyptian Building
City of Richmond
Department of Community Development


Designed by noted Greek Revival architect Thomas S. Stewart of Philadelphia, the Egyptian Building is one of the finest examples of the rare “Egyptian Revival” style. The building was the first permanent home of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, which later became the Medical College of Virginia. The Egyptian Building has been in continuous use since its construction in 1845 and remains the oldest medical college building in the South. While the interior has since been extensively altered to accommodate administrative office space (with the notable exception of the 1930s lobby and ground floor lecture hall), the monumental exterior is extremely well preserved. The building once housed lecture rooms, a dissecting room, an infirmary, and hospital beds for medical and surgical cases.

The exotic exterior of the building presents a stately, fortress-like mass, and its battered walls, which taper from the bottom to the top, reinforce the impression of solidity and weight. The temple-form building has nearly identical facades at both ends, with corner pylons framing the porticoes with their pairs of colossal palm capital columns. Sloping pylons also encase the window bays on the long sides of the building. Other notable architectural features include the diamond-paned windows, columns of bunched reeds with palm leaf capitals, and a cast iron fence forged by R. W. Barnes of Richmond. The exterior ornament depicts the disc of the sun goddess, with the disc representing eternity, the serpent representing wisdom, and the wings representing spirit.

Egyptian Building detail

Detail on Egyptian Building
City of Richmond Department of Community Development

In 1939, Richmond architects Baskervill & Son oversaw extensive restoration of the exterior of the building. Bernard Baruch, a wealthy industrialist, financed the restoration in memory of his father Dr. Simon Baruch, an 1862 graduate of the Medical College of Virginia and a Confederate surgeon in the Civil War. The 270-seat Baruch Auditorium on the first floor dates to this renovation and is still in use. The restoration included remodeling the interior of the building to follow the Egyptian style. None of the original interiors survived.

Extensive use of the lotus flower motif accompanies rich interior colors rife with mystical symbolism. Red represents divine love, blue represents divine intelligence; and the golden yellow represents the mercy of God. Hieroglyphics decorate the lobby, and the floor tiles depict a large scarab beetle.

Plan your visit
The Egyptian Building, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the SW corner of E. Marshall and College Sts. at 1223 E. Marshall Street in downtown Richmond, on the north side of the Broad Street corridor. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file. The building currently houses administrative offices for the Medical College of Virginia and is open Monday-Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm. Take a close look at the fence posts, which are stylized mummies with bare feet protruding from the bases. 
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