John Kerr Branch House

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1913–1919, John Russell Pope. 2501 Monument Ave.

Facing the site of the Davis Monument on the south side of Monument Avenue is the John Kerr Branch House, one of the largest single-family dwellings ever built in the city of Richmond. John Kerr Branch, a powerful local banker, bought the land from his father, one of the major landholders during the development of Monument Avenue. Branch was involved in the development of Union Station, two blocks to the north, and asked Pope to design a house for him. By this time Pope was an expert in designing Neo-Tudor houses, and legend has it that Otto Eggers, Pope's chief designer and later a partner in the successor firm of Eggers and Higgins, did the design. Branch family lore includes the story that Branch was always angry that Pope never came to Richmond to see the completed house.

Much of the interior detailing was left to an Englishman named Spencer Guidael. As a prototype for the design, the Pope office turned to a well-known English country house of the Tudor period, Compton Wynyates. Compton's south elevation was adopted for the north facade of the Branch House. The large bay window on the south elevation of the Branch House came from the inner court at Compton Wynyates. A texture of age was imparted to the building through weathered exterior materials. Flemish bond brickwork, limestone window and door surrounds, and the clustered chimneys look many centuries old. Several inscriptions on the exterior related to the Branch family's arrival in Virginia in the seventeenth century (they were tobacco planters and slave owners). Stephen Bedford, who has written extensively on Pope, notes that the floor plan is H-shaped and conforms to Tudor plans with rooms opening onto each other. The floor levels were varied to indicate age. The interior decoration, which has mostly disappeared, included medieval, Georgian, and Adam Style rooms, again to give the impression that the house had grown over time. The 28,000-square-foot house sits on a landscaped lot. Branch evidently assumed that his sister would build a house on the other half of the block, but she never did.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Richard Guy Wilson
Updated By: 
Richard Guy Wilson (2020)
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Data

Timeline

  • 1913

    Built
  • 2003

    Repurposed

What's Nearby

Citation

Richard Guy Wilson, "John Kerr Branch House", [Richmond, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VA-01-RI300.1.

Print Source

Buildings of Virginia: Tidewater and Piedmont, Richard Guy Wilson and contributors. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002, 258-259.

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