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Virginia Paper Company Building, 416 West Third Street

 

 

The Virginia Paper Company Building is a two-story warehouse located along Third Street, just a few blocks from the Square.  Completed in 1937, the building  was among the last of large industrial structures built near the center of the city.  While a good collection of industrial buildings still exist in Third Ward to the west of the Southern Railroad, Virginia Paper and the neighboring I.E. Dupont Building are the only substantial surviving examples of industrial buildings in the  section of Third Ward bounded by the Southern Railroad and Mint Street.  Until much of it was destroyed during Urban Renewal, this section of the city was home to factories and warehouses dependent on railroad transportation, with workers' houses scattered among the industrial buildings.  

 

 

Fire insurance company maps indicate that in the 1950's a brick textile warehouse occupied a site to the east of the Virginia Paper Building, with the buildings separated by a narrow alley.  Directly across West Third Street sat a large brick grocery warehouse.  Both of these warehouse buildings have been demolished.

 

 

 

 

The Virginia Paper Building employed fire-proof construction.  The solid brick exterior walls surround reinforced  concrete slab floors and roof, which are supported by poured concrete mushroom columns.  These noncombustible material combined with metal frame doors and windows, resulted in a virtually fire-proof building shell.  These elements of a fire-proof design became popular in the 1920's and were the culmination of over one hundred years of technical advances. 

 

 

The Virginia Paper Building is not "square," instead the south elevation was constructed at an angle that conforms to the border of the building lot.   And the building's  facade does not face Third Street.  Instead, the eight-bay wide east elevation, which at one time overlooked eight rail spurs of the P&N and Southern railroads, is the principal and was historically the most prominent elevation.  A raised center parapet features tall letters, many of which are missing, that once spelled out the company's name.

 

The brick are laid in Flemish Bond.  The walls are unadorned except for a simple corbelled water table, and cast stones that cap the parapets walls.  The concrete ground floor is raised to the level of a railcar to accommodate materials being loaded and unloaded from an adjacent rail spur through two large door overhead doors, each topped by large 16-light transoms.  The facade is also pierced by twelve large window openings, each filled by triple 16-ligh metal-framed windows, flooding the warehouse floors with light.

 

The facade is symmetrical except for for a single narrow recessed bay at the north end of the facade, containing a narrow 12-light window and a doorway that gives access to a stairwell.

 

 

The five-bay wide south elevation is relatively symmetrical.  The three large first-story window openings are filled with 72-light metal-frame windows.  Between the windows, two large door openings topped with 16-light transoms, have been infilled with brick.  The five second-story windows are the same triple 16-light windows found on the facade.  A single doorway with a brick stoop and steps has been cut into wall between the westernmost  window and original industrial door.  

The west elevation, which was originally largely obscured by a neighboring warehouse, is the most altered section of the generally intact and unaltered building.  The second story is pieced by some of the same triple windows found on the east and south elevations, but the location of offices on the first floor illuminated by tall 24-light windows, a stairwell in one of the bays, and an access door to a small basement, required a jumbled fenestration.  The practical but asymmetrical fenestration of the west elevation is typical for the least public side of a building.  It is very likely that the most prominent openings in the west elevation, two large overhead doors,  and the narrow concrete loading dock were added only after the neighboring warehouse was torn down sometime after 19531.  With the removal of the neighboring warehouse, the Virginia Paper Building could be transformed from a warehouse dependent on rail freight, to one able to load and unload truck freight.  The orientation of the building switched from the symmetrical east elevation, overlooking the rail lines, to the jumbled west elevation, adjacent to a large parking lot.   The north elevation is blank and is partially obscured by the high grade of the adjacent lot.

 

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1.  Building was shown in 1953 Sanborn Map