Rich with history, building gets new future

The Robinson House will be repurposed as a regional tourism center.  (Photo by Mark Robinson)

The Robinson House will be repurposed as a regional tourism center. (Photo by Mark Robinson)

New life will soon be pumped into a 150-year-old Museum District building.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will turn the 9,000-square-foot Robinson House on its grounds into a regional tourist center serving Richmond, Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover, the museum said Monday.

“There’s definitely a need for this in the community,” VMFA spokesperson Suzanne Hall said. “The main visitor center now is at the [Greater Richmond] Convention Center.”

The renovations are projected to cost about $2.7 million, according to Stephen Bonadies, the VMFA’s deputy director for collections management. The project will be funded through the Virginia Public Building Authority’s capital project pool. The authority is a state organization that provides money for state-run facilities.

Richmond-based Glavé & Holmes’s Cultural Studio is the architect on the project. The firm has worked with the VMFA in the past, completing a redesign of the museum’s Faberge Gallery and doing work on the Pauley Center.

The museum, which saw more than half a million visitors last year, wants to preserve as much of the building’s history as possible, Bonadies said.

“There are going to be some challenges to the project. We do have to make the building accessible. That requires some type of addition that can accommodate an elevator,” he said.

Sitting just north of the museum’s main entrance, Robinson House was built in the 1850s and became a home for poor and injured Confederate veterans in 1884. It closed in the early 1940s. The commonwealth granted the building to the Virginia Institute for Scientific Research in 1949.

The building became a part of the VMFA in 1964. Hall said it is currently used for storage space.

The rehabilitation will include the installation of a gallery memorializing the site’s history.

The project is expected to be completed by summer 2015, ahead of the UCI World Cycling Championship, Hall said.

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Brian Glass

A regional tourism center is an excellent use for the building. What needs to be done next is to link the 3.4 miles of the Boulevard, including the Children’s Museum, and the Science Museum, along with The Diamond, Sportsbackers Stadium,Byrd Park,The Historical Society, and the Redskin Training Center as a cultural and recreational complex.Carytown would also be accessible, as well as walking tours of Monument Avenue and the Fan. Start with rubber wheeled trolly’s, from The Arthur Ashe Center to Byrd Park, to get people around, and ultimately do a light rail loop to replace the rubber wheeled trolly’s The… Read more »