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Helena Building

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1902–1904, Kenneth M. Murchison, Jr. 1948, renovation. 1978–1980, renovation, Leavitt Associates. 131–133 Granby St.

The seven-story Helena Building is Norfolk's most lavishly ornamented Renaissance Revival skyscraper, resembling an overscaled Genoese palazzo. Much of the terra-cotta ornamentation has been removed from the ground level, but on the second floor, balconies supported by consoles and enclosed by balustrades project from windows with engaged Roman Doric columns and segmental pediments. Similar details appear on the fifth floor, but the cornice unfortunately has been removed.

The Helena Building was built as the clubhouse and office building for the Virginia Club, a social organization founded in 1873. The club's officers organized an architectural competition. Local entrants were John Kevan Peebles and the firm of Breese and Ferguson; at the national level, Frank E. Mead and Kenneth M. Murchison, Jr., both of New York City, submitted entries. Murchison, who was educated at Columbia University and the Ecole des BeauxArts in Paris, won the competition. Around World War I the Virginia Club moved to less expensive quarters. The clubhouse was converted entirely into offices and, in subsequent years, its exterior was remodeled and its top floor redesigned in the International Style as a sleek residential penthouse. A more recent renovation has further altered the appearance of the ground level and the penthouse.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
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Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Helena Building", [Norfolk, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-NK21.

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