Tobacco and Trolleys: Industry and Transportation
Antebellum Architecture
Richmond's African American Heritage
The Continuing legacy of Historic Preservation
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RICHMOND
Main Street Station and Trainshed

Main Street Station

Main Street Station c. 1971
Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Main Street Station is an ornate and imposing five-story building with a steep hipped roof and a clock tower at its southwest corner. Regarded as one of Richmond’s most renowned buildings since its opening day in 1901, the depot is a prestigious ornament for the city. Built when rail travel was at the peak of its importance, its architectural grandeur provided a powerful symbol as a gateway to the city.

Constructed over a two-year period spanning the turn of the 20th century and designed in an eclectic variation on the ornate French Renaissance style, Main Street Station originally functioned as the train depot and offices for the Chesapeake and Ohio (C & O) and Seaboard Air Line Railroads. It marked the crossroads of the two lines, with Seaboard Air Line being the major north-south line in the country. The station was at the center of a monumental effort to elevate the entire rail network of central Richmond, and replaced Broad Street Station three miles to the west. The latter, designed by architect John Russell Pope, now houses the Science Museum of Virginia.

Wilson, Harris, and Richards of Philadelphia, a firm that specialized in railroad architecture, designed both the monumental depot building and the attached 400’ long industrial train shed. In 1907, Wilson, Harris, and Richards also designed the French Renaissance style building at 1552 East Main Street, the former Railroad YMCA. It originally catered to railroad workers from the many local rail lines. The building now houses the Old City Bar to the immediate east of Main Street Station’s elevated tracks.

Architecturally, Main Street Station ranks as an excellent example of the influence of the French École des Beaux-Arts ("School of Fine Arts") on American architecture and building. Adapted from French Renaissance architecture, the style of the station is associated with what has been termed Second Renaissance Revival, a style fostered in America by architect Richard Morris Hunt between c. 1880 and c. 1890. Main Street Station is a particularly lavish and imposing example of this style, of which relatively few examples remain. The large cast iron train shed attached to the rear of the building is far more industrial and utilitarian in character, but remains impressive as one of the last examples of its age and type in the country.

Main Street Station2

Main Street Station
Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries

The once-bustling transportation hub closed in 1975 due to a decline in passenger rail service. The reopening of the historic station in 2003, however, marked the culmination of years of renovation to this 102-year-old landmark and the return of passenger train service to downtown Richmond. In the years to come, planned upgrades to the station include the integration of bus, trolley, airport shuttle, taxi and limousine services. As Main Street Station continues to transform into a significant multi-modal transportation center, it will once again serve as a gateway to the City of Richmond and its metropolitan region.

Plan your visit

Main Street Station and Trainshed, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1520 E. Main Street. .  Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file.  An active train station, hours of operation are Monday–Thursday 9:30am to 6:00pm, Friday 9:30am to 9:00pm , and weekends 9:00am to 8:30pm.  Main Street Station and Trainshed has been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.  For more information, visit the Richmond Metropolitan Authority website.

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