Virginia War Memorial
621 S. Belvidere Street
Thursday, July 16, 6:00pm to 8:00pm
In 1950, five years after the end of World War II, the Virginia General Assembly authorized the construction of a memorial to honor and remember the nearly 10,000 Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice serving in the U.S Armed Forces. Nearly five acres of land overlooking the James River and downtown Richmond were allocated for the Memorial, and Samuel J. Collins of Staunton and his nephew, Richard E. Collins won an architectural competition among Virginia architects.
The Collinses created a brilliant and timeless design that embraced the dramatic site as well as any building in Richmond. Suggesting a Greek temple, the open pavilion, with highly stylized classical elements such as columns and an entablature, has a solid wall of smooth, stone block on its western side that shields traffic noise and the relentless afternoon sun. On the shrine’s eastern side, each bay contains a huge sheet of glass on which are listed the dead, their names forever set against the backdrop of their capital city.
Set within the pavilion and visible to passersby is “Memory,” a 22-foot-tall statue of an allegorical female in grief. An eternal flame flickers at its base. The design was Leo F. Friedlander, noted sculptor who also worked on sculptural elements at Rockefeller Center in New York City.
As construction began, America entered the Korean War and plans were changed to include the heroes of this conflict. Built immediately to the north of the pavilion was a small auditorium and office building that played only a supporting role architecturally.
In 1981, the Shrine of Memory was expanded to include the names of those Virginians killed in action during the Vietnam War, and in 1996, the names of those who died in the Persian Gulf War were added. Today, there are nearly 12,000 heroes honored in the Shrine.