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 of 1865, 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, and they contribute to the register-listed Main Street Banking Historic District.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark