Year Built: 1927
Architectural Style: Art Deco
District: Grace Street Commercial Historic District
One of downtown Richmond’s significant historic and architectural resources – the Richmond Garage at 6th and Franklin Streets – is at risk in connection with ORD 2016-270 currently on the December 12, 2016 City Council Agenda.
While most parking decks create dead zones of bad and banal architecture where pedestrians fear to tread, Richmond possesses one beautiful historic parking structure that is remarkably different from the ordinary parking deck. The Richmond Garage at 6th and Franklin Streets is a significant historic resource within the Grace Street Commercial District National Register Historic District and individually in its own right. As reflected in the attached photos, the Richmond Garage demonstrates that a parking deck can be a work of art and architecture rather than a naked work of engineering. Indeed, its beauty and the quality of its architecture and materials combine to make the streetscape around the Richmond Garage vibrant and contribute to the historic and authentic feel of this walkable historic urban neighborhood.
Built in 1927, the Richmond Garage is the most notable parking structure in downtown Richmond. At first glance it does not even reveal itself as a parking structure. But upon closer inspection, you will notice the details on the Art Deco façade include clever ornaments derived from automobiles. Eagles bearing shield-like automobile radiator grilles crown the major pylons. The parapet is decorated with circular features at the top of each bay – these are wheels and tires. Such details signal the building’s purpose and reflect the towering importance of the automobile in the 1920s urban landscape. Designed by Lee, Smith & Van der Voort, the Richmond Garage represented a major new building type and was a novel structure at the time of its construction. Historic Richmond’s much beloved former Executive Director and the City of Richmond’s first preservation planner, Jack Zehmer, thought the Richmond Garage so significant that it was included on “Jack’s List” of those buildings he deemed most important to save. The historic façade of the Richmond Garage today reflects the monumental impact the automobile has had to this day on Richmond’s urban center.