Much of the industrial Southside, or the manufacturing area south of the James River, is unmemorable, but this building is one of the few exceptions. A significant piece of Streamline Moderne architecture, the Model Tobacco building also illuminates the new way in which buildings, formerly seen at pedestrian speed and close up, were experienced in the early automobile age. This powerful, boxy, six-story building looms above U.S. 1 as motorists approach at highway speeds. The horizontal ribbon windows on the street side of the brick structure only add to the streamlined sense of speed. At each end of the building, stylized engaged piers carry the eye to the words “Model Tobacco” in sans serif lettering embedded like graphic relief near the roofline. Designed by a well-known Chicago firm that participated in the commercial building revolution at the turn of the twentieth century, it brought to conservative Richmond a superb example of industrial architecture.
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