Wilton-Fan District, Richmond, VA

What's Out There Richmond: An Amazing Weekend

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA - Photo by Matthew Traucht, 2014

View the Guide online.

Featuring nearly three dozen free tours on October 25 and 26, What’s Out There Weekend Richmond was an outstanding success. With sites expressing Picturesque, Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival, and Modernist styles, tour attendees enjoyed remarkable weather and expert-led tours of significant landscapes framed by autumnal color.

(upper) Launch reception at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, photo by

Barrett Doherty; (lower) Altria Headquarters, photo by Matthew Traucht

The Weekend kicked off with a reception sponsored by Victor Stanley at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden where Making Beauty Sustainable: The Charles F. Gillette Forum was just wrapping up. Attendees from that event joined What’s Out There Virginia Advisory Council members, Weekend partners and sponsors, tour guides, and attendees to exchange ideas and discuss Richmond’s landscape heritage as they enjoyed a smorgasbord of hors d'oeuvres. Tour guide and local historian Calder Loth shared a preview of his Sunday tour of Monument Avenue as he described an unrealized sculpture that would have drastically changed the stately boulevard: As Loth described, Salvador Dali in 1965 proposed that a female figure should be added to the collection of Confederate War heroes on Monument Avenue. Dali conceived a Surrealist depiction of local Civil War Captain Sally Tompkins wielding a sword over a dragon perched atop a 20-foot-tall model of Dali’s finger. Though the idea was rejected by the City’s statue commission, Loth lamented that, had it been realized, the statue would “surely have put Monument Avenue on the map.”

Saturday featured several tours of sites not normally open to the public. Working with local partners and institutions, TCLF was able to provide public access to two rare Modernist landscapes: The first, Rice House designed by Richard Neutra and completed in 1965 and donated to the Science Museum of Virginia in 1996, is positioned on an island separated from the mainland by the James River and Kanawha Canal. The tour was led by Museum Director Rich Conti and landscape architect Pete O’Shea of Siteworks who described future site plans. Later Saturday morning, two tours brought attendees in close contact with the private 121-acre Altria Headquarters campus. Designed in 1958 by landscape architect Charles Gillette to serve as the Reynolds Metals Company International Headquarters, the highly detailed campus design includes a 250-foot-long reflecting pool that serves as a reservoir for the cooling and irrigation systems and a 10,000-square-foot interior courtyard with fountains and a massive magnolia. The guides—Doug Fox, Altria’s Facility Manager and Lu Gay Lanier, landscape architect at Timmons Group who has spent years working with Gillette’s design—discussed the challenges of maintaining the Modernist details and dealing with intrusions upon the site's important viewsheds.

Richmond's cultural landscape also includes significant vernacular sites such as Jackson Ward and Weekend attendees were treated to a fascinating tour of this historic neighborhood. Guide Doug Kellner of The Valentine provided a rich history of the Ward, significant for its role in African American economic and cultural development. Tour attendee Jared Green, editor of the American Society of Landscape Architects' DIRT blog described the neighborhood as one undergoing constant transformations as it endeavors to “preserve history and accommodate change.” Saturday also witnessed tours of the iconic Capitol Square introduced by Kathleen Kilpatrick, Executive Director of the Capitol Square Preservation Council; the extensive James River Park System led by Nathan Burrell, Park Manager; Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Executive Director Shane Tippett; and Windsor Farms led by Jimmy Shepherd, President of the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

(upper) Libby Hill Park, photo by Matthew Traucht; (lower) Windsor 

Farms, photo by Matthew Traucht
Sunday’s weather was even better than Saturday’s and seventeen tours provided opportunities for attendees to experience more of Richmond’s diverse sites. At Libby Hill Park, Leighton Powell, Executive Director of Scenic Virginia, described the significance of the site as preserving the “view that named Richmond.” Tours of Byrd Park led by Doug Kellner and Maymont led by curator and director Dale Wheary provided attendees in depth histories of this extensive green space preserved between Richmond’s downtown and the James River. Taken together, the two connecting sites provide almost 400 acres of recreational opportunities, memorials, and formal gardens. Further down the James, Stacey Farinholt of Spatial Affairs Bureau and Christy Coleman, co-CEO of the American Civil War Museum provided attendees a thorough tour of Tredegar Iron Works. Local historian Sarah Driggs and Stephen Bonadies, Deputy Director for Collections and Facilities Management at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, led an extensive tour of the Richmond’s Confederate Memorial Park that took attendees in and out of the museum’s buildings and weaved through the historic landscape and 3½-acre E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden designed in 2010 by OLIN. Sunday afternoon included tours of Hollywood Cemetery, Tuckahoe Plantation, Virginia House, Agecroft Hall, and others. Edwin Slipek, senior contributing editor and architecture critic at Style Weekly, discussed the challenges of neglect facing the Modernist Kanawha Plaza in the heart of downtown and Jeremy Jordan, landscape architect at Nelson Byrd Woltz, provided a detailed description of the development of the design at the Virginia War Memorial.

By all accounts, the Weekend was an incredible success. One attendee stated “I can’t imagine the work that went into organizing What’s Out There Richmond, but as a participant, I can tell you those efforts were inspiring… Although I am relatively new to the Richmond area, my friends, native Richmonders, discovered areas they have never visited and stories they had never heard.” This event could not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of all of our volunteers, tour guides, and site managers. We are indebted to: Bartlett Tree Experts, Charles Luck Stone Center, the National Endowment for the Arts Art Works program, Victor Stanley, Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden, Nelson Byrd Woltz, The Valentine, University of Virginia School of Architecture and the Sara Shallenberger Brown Cultural Landscape Initiative, 3north, the Virginia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Earth Design Associates, La Diff, Rob McGinnis, Rhodeside& Harwell, Timmons Group, Virginia Center for Architecture, VMDO Architects, Warner Larson Landscape Architects, and Water Street Studio.

Check out our publications page to purchase a copy of the What’s Out There Richmond guidebook, illustrated with more than 100 full-color photographs and 30 essays illuminating the Commonwealth’s landscape legacy. Watch our What’s Out There Weekend schedule for events in 2015 that will include free, expert-led tours of Newport RI, Toronto ON, Austin, TX, and Denver, CO.

Purchase the Guide.