Welcoming a New Era on the Boulevard
I’m always struck by how barren our neighborhood looks in this January 1913 photograph. It shows ongoing construction of the Confederate Memorial Institute one year after the groundbreaking. Only the best (luckiest) prognosticators of the day could have imagined that the area now known as the Museum District would become one of Richmond’s most fashionable neighborhoods. Home to thousands of residents, many coffee shops and restaurants, and two world-class museums, the corner of Kensington and Boulevard is part of a bustling neighborhood. As the VHS reopens its newly transformed galleries, the exterior of our Boulevard entrance also experienced a major renovation as part of our $38-million Story of Virginia Campaign.
The core portion of our building, known by many native Richmonders as the Battle Abbey, is both historic and monumental. Its massive, monolithic, limestone walls can also be a bit intimidating to passers-by. Our new landscaping doesn’t detract from the building’s unique architecture, but has been softened by new planting beds and a pedestrian friendly plaza that is far more inviting to our guests.
Where there was once a small parking area that served relatively few guests, we’ve installed usable green space on the Boulevard. This not only allows us to offer displays and events along our very visible Boulevard front, but it also offers a space that our neighbors can enjoy even when the building isn’t open.
The plantings, designed by Glavé & Holmes Architecture and Stewart/HG and provided by James River Nurseries, feature varieties—some of which are native to Virginia—that will bloom throughout the year. I noticed that the PowWow White Cone Flowers (echinacea purpurea) were in bloom today. I also learned that echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog, which makes sense when you see them.
The War Horse also received a bit of attention with a newly painted fence that better blends into the facade of the building.
We plan to reopen the VHS’s Boulevard entrance on Saturday, August 8, along with many of our signature exhibitions. In the meantime, feel free to come on by and enjoy a cool summer evening on our front lawn.