VMFA plans regional Visitor Center in historic Robinson House

The VMFA will rehabilitate the historic Robinson House and repurpose it to include a regional visitor center.

Since the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts opened in May 2010, its annual attendance has been the largest of any attraction in the region. Because of its proximity to I-95/I-64 and its leadership position, VMFA will rehabilitate the historic Robinson House and repurpose it to include a regional visitor center. The building, located on the museum’s Mary Morton Parsons Plaza, will be operated in collaboration with Richmond Region Tourism that includes Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover Counties as well as the City of Richmond.

The center will open in the summer of 2015, which will be in time for the UCI World Championship Cycling event in September 2015.

“The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a leader in the tourism community and the ideal place to begin a visit to the Richmond region,” Director Alex Nyerges said. “The Virginia Museum is always delighted to collaborate and support tourism initiatives with our regional partners and aspires to become a destination for cyclists in addition to tourists in cars, motor coaches, tour buses and taxis. We have a deep respect for the history of the land and the buildings which the Virginia Museum is charged to protect and preserve.”

The preservation and rehabilitation of Robinson House will stabilize its structure, reclaim interior spaces to evoke the buildings’ historic past, and repurpose the building for use as a regional tourism center. In addition, a gallery is planned to interpret the history of the site from Native American times to its role as the headquarters and museum for the R. E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans for 56 years, among other uses. In 1892 the state agreed to contribute to the ongoing operations of the R.E. Lee Camp, in exchange for the deed to the property. After a competitive selection process, VMFA has engaged Glavé & Holmes’ Cultural Studio, led by Steven Blashfield, AIA. VMFA has nominated Robinson House to the National Register for Historic Landmarks and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

The Robinson House, an Italianate structure built circa 1850, was prominent Richmond banker Anthony Robinson’s country house and farm, at that time encompassing 159 acres. In 1884 the house and 36 acres were sold to the R.E. Lee Camp, No. 1, Confederate Veterans, and the camp grew to care for approximately 3,000 indigent and disabled veterans and flourished for 56 years. The property then reverted to the Commonwealth of Virginia according to the preexisting agreement and the building served a variety of functions during the seven decades that followed, housing the Virginia Institute for Scientific Research (1949-63); offices, art studios, and galleries for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (1964-93); and offices for the Virginia Association of Museums (1995-96).

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