Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

127-0023 Stearns Block

Stearns Block
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For additional information, read the Nomination Form PDF

VLR Listing Date 12/02/1969

NRHP Listing Date 02/26/1970

NPS property number 70000885

The cast-iron architecture of the Stearns Block is Richmond’s best surviving example of the architectural exuberance that could be achieved with an otherwise commonplace material. Constructed to replace buildings destroyed in the Evacuation Fire, this and numerous other ironfronts gave downtown Richmond a rich, dignified architecture by the quickest and least expensive means. Inspired by Venetian Renaissance palaces, most of America’s ironfronts are characterized by windows framed with delicate classical elements, and a deep ornamented cornice topping the whole. The building was completed in 1869 for Richmond businessman Franklin Stearns, once Virginia’s largest landowner. The ironwork was designed by architect George H. Johnson, who moved to America from England in 1851 and worked with the Baltimore foundry of Hayward and Bartlett on many of Richmond’s iron facades. The four buildings were combined into a single commercial structure known as “The Ironfronts,” in a 1974 renovation.


Abbreviations:
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

Updated April 4, 2018