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Ashland Historic District

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Center Street (along the railroad tracks and streets off it)
  • Visitor Center and Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Depot
  • Visitor Center and Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Depot
  • Henry Clay Inn
  • Henry Clay Inn
  • Hanover Bank Building
  • Washington-Franklin Hall
  • Washington-Franklin Hall
  • Pace Lecture Hall
  • Pace Lecture Hall
  • Old Chapel Theater (Duncan Memorial Chapel)
  • Peele Administration Building (Carnegie Library)
  • Ashland Theater (former)
  • Ashland Theater (former)
  • Ashland Theater (former)
  • Randolph-Macon College Fine Arts Center (St. Ann's Catholic Church)
  • Randolph-Macon College Fine Arts Center (St. Ann's Catholic Church)
  • Randolph-Macon College Fine Arts Center (St. Ann's Catholic Church)
  • Richard S. Gilles Jr. Public Library
  • Richard S. Gilles Jr. Public Library
  • Washington-Franklin Hall, Randolph-Macon College

Ashland, about twelve miles north of Richmond, was formed around the railroad; the double tracks of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad (RF&P) run through the center of town, with Center Street on either side of the tracks. The railroad laid tracks through the area in 1836 and purchased a tract of land. Initially developed in the 1850s as a resort and as a passenger rest stop, the town had hotels, a racecourse, and a few cottages. It was incorporated as a city in 1858, named for the Kentucky estate of a native son, Henry Clay. The Civil War brought widespread destruction to the town. Recovery was aided by the arrival of Randolph-Macon College, but not until the late nineteenth century did the town became a commuter suburb for Richmond. It contains at its core a group of important buildings.

The Visitors Center and Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad Depot (1922, W. Duncan Lee; 110 North Center Street) is in the center of the road and tracks. Modest in size with a prominent roof, it is in the Colonial Revival idiom. Across from it is the Henry Clay Inn (1992), a re-creation of a hotel of the same name that had burned. Adjacent is the former and modified Hanover Bank Building (1919, Albert F. Huntt; 104 North Center Street), with its four engaged Doric columns.

On the opposite (east) side of Center Street is the campus of Randolph-Macon College. Chartered in 1830, this Methodist men's college invested heavily in Confederate bonds and found itself in financial difficulties after the war. The RF&P Railroad offered land as an inducement if the college would move from Boydton, Virginia. In 1868 the college trustees accepted a former hotel at the northern end of town and moved. By 1871 the college had prospered and had erected, facing the railroad tracks, Washington-Franklin Hall (1871–1872, Benjamin F. Price), a large brick Italianate structure. Impressive, with large, round-arched pediments on its two major facades, the structure served as a literary society for the college. This was followed by the adjacent Italianate structure, Pace Lecture Hall (1876, Albert Lawrence West), a much tamer design, and then, between the two, a joint town-gown chapel, formerly the Duncan Memorial Chapel, now the Old Chapel Theater (1879, Albert Lawrence West), a red brick Gothic Revival structure. These made an impressive High Victorian array along the tracks for all who were traveling either north or south. Twentieth-century additions to the campus have followed, not too surprisingly, in the Colonial Revival mode, with the most important being the former Carnegie Library, now the Peele Administration Building (1922, Edward L. Tilton), designed by a former McKim, Mead and White employee who specialized in libraries.

The former Ashland Theater (c. 1950; 207 England Street) possesses a striking Art Deco tower. Across is the Randolph-Macon College Fine Arts Center (formerly St. Ann's Catholic Church) (1892; alterations, 1925, Luther P. Hartsook; northwest corner of England and Henry Streets), which has half timbering characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Back on Center Street is the Richard S. Gilles Jr. Public Library (1997, DePasquale Gentil Homme Group and Luckmire Associates; 200 South Center Street), which attempts to pick up the commercial scale of the surrounding context with its strange configuration of a small tower and long horizontal form: a gentle sort of postmodernism.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
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Data

What's Nearby

Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Ashland Historic District", [Ashland, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-PI25.

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 132-133.

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