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Science Museum of Virginia
John Russell Pope's only railroad station has been a major landmark on West Broad Street since its construction. The structure was built on what was the western edge of the city to replace the outmoded facilities of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac and Atlantic Coastline railroads. Conspicuously absent from Pope's competition-winning 1913 design is the dome on the completed building. Construction on the project was delayed until 1917 because of opposition from downtown interests. When the project went ahead, the railroads requested a dome to distinguish the structure from recently completed facilities in other cities. Sited on a large artificial mound that screens the tracks, the station provides a grand processional approach from Broad Street. On the front, which is clad in Indiana limestone, is a portico modeled on the Doric order of St. Peter's Square in Rome. In the attic story is a large clock, flanked by the sculptural figures Progress and Industry. The dome rises on a polygonal drum pierced by lunettes modeled on those of the rotunda of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. Originally covered with terra-cotta tiles, the present copper dome was completed in 1955. Flanking the central section behind simple piers were spaces for a variety of secondary functions, including the former “Negro Waiting Room” in the east wing. A loop of tracks brought all of the trains into the station from the same direction. Arriving passengers came up stairways on the west side of the building; departing passengers went down stairways on the east side. The cast iron train sheds can be seen on the exterior of the building.
The station closed in 1969, and the building was adapted for use by the Science Museum of Virginia in a sympathetic renovation that preserves its character. The domed portion of the building, which originally contained the ticket counters and main waiting room, now serves as the reception space of the museum. Beyond is the concourse, now the main exhibit area.
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