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Lewis F. Powell, Jr., U.S. Courthouse (U.S. Customhouse)

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U.S. Customhouse
1855–1858, Ammi B. Young (architect), Albert Lybrock (construction supervision), Alexander H. Brown (engineer), Office of the Supervising Architect, U.S. Treasury Department. 1889, expansion. 1909–1910, expansion, James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect, U.S. Treasury Department. 1918 and 1930, expansion, James A. Wetmore, Acting Supervising Architect, U.S. Treasury Department. 1000 E. Main St.

This heroic five-part building has grown over time. The first three floors of the center block constitute the original building. Young was the first Supervising Architect of the Treasury and designed federal buildings across the country during the 1850s. In Virginia he also designed the customhouses in Norfolk and Petersburg. His style varied, but for Richmond he chose as a model the solid Renaissance palazzo, or, as one historian has termed it, “Tuscan palazzo,” instead of a Roman temple. The tight urban site helped determine the style, since the blocky form allowed Young to build to the street line. Young described the site, which bordered Capital Square at the rear, as the “very best in the city.” Albert Lybrock, a young German immigrant who, after the Civil War, would become a leading architect in Richmond, acted as the local supervisor. During the Civil War, the building provided offices for the president and treasury of the Confederate States of America. Symbolically, it survived the 1865 evacuation fire and subsequently was expanded sympathetically several times by government architects. In 1991 it became a U.S. District Court of Appeals building. When sun hits the warm granite and deeply recessed Italianate arches of the south-facing facade on Main Street, it creates a dramatic interplay of light and shadow. Recently, two WPA murals, one painted by Paul Cadmus ( Pocahontas Rescuing John Smith) and the other by Jared French ( Stuart's Raiders at the Swollen Fort) (both 1939), originally next door in the former Parcel Post Building, were installed on the interior.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson et al.
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Citation

Richard Guy Wilson et al., "Lewis F. Powell, Jr., U.S. Courthouse (U.S. Customhouse)", [Richmond, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-RI131.

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 213-215.

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