by Jon Baliles
One of Richmond’s favorite architectural wonders and spooky places is the Pump House along the Kanawha Canal and adjacent to the Boulevard Bridge. It has been the target and talk of renovations and adaptive reuses for almost a century since it closed in 1924 (the city wanted to tear it down in the 1950s, go figure), and now some federal funding is coming to help jump start the conversation yet again, according to Hunter Reardon at Richmond Magazine.
The nonprofit Friends of Pump House took an interest in preserving the property in 2017 and now $1 million in renovation funds will be used, half of which was secured by Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine as part of a federal spending bill signed in December.
The City of Richmond will use $500,000 to “stabilize the Byrd Park Pump House, expand its capacity beyond the current limit of 25 and to preserve it for future generations,” according to a joint statement. The money is expected to be matched by private donations from Historic Richmond.
“It’s sort of a Sisyphean task to preserve an old building like this, but you’d be surprised how good of a shape some parts of the building are in,” says Penn Markham, president of Friends of Pump House. “We’re working on a study with Quinn Evans architects to figure out what needs to be done to spend the money wisely. For example, there’s no point fixing the floor if you haven’t fixed the roof first.”
Fully restored, the site could became a super-popular destination for weddings, retreats, fundraisers, and other cool events with the canal and the James River right outside. And there have long been discussions of varying degree about restoring the canal from the Pump House to Tredegar downtown — it may come in phases, but that would be just about one of the coolest experiences anywhere.
Markham hopes this infusion of cash is the beginning of a full revitalization. “This is the most serious renovation effort in the last 100 years,” he says. “A lot of people have talked about it, but nobody’s ponied up the money until now. It just might work — there are a lot of people in the community that want it to happen.”
Jon Baliles is a former Richmond City Councilman. This is an excerpt from the original article posted on his blog, RVA 5×5. It is posted here with permission.