The fate of the Richmond Coliseum has been in question recently, with the city soliciting input from business leaders, local officials, and a consulting firm to determine what comes next for the much-maligned structure. Should the city continue to keep it limping along with costly repairs as needed, do a large-scale renovation, or demolish it in hopes of building a flashier replacement? Which of these options is best for Richmond, and where will the money come from? Alas, the Out of the Box bloggers can’t answer these questions for you. We can only lament on behalf of the near-40-year-old Coliseum, “What a drag it is getting old!”
Here at the Library of Virginia, however, there are reminders of how it all began, when the 13,500-capacity arena was the pride and joy of Richmond native and architect Ben R. Johns, Jr. (1922-2006). In 1968, Johns was tapped as the primary architect to work with the Philadelphia firm of Vincent G. Kling and Associates on the Coliseum project. While today the building has its share of detractors, back then it had at least a few admirers. As a result of the Coliseum design, Johns was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1974 and the Richmond Planning Commission in 1975.
In 2007, the year after Johns’ death, a collection of his business records was donated to the LVA. Chiefly focused on the Coliseum project, these records include the above-pictured architectural model, created when the now-beleaguered building was just a gleam in its architect’s eye.
The Ben R. Johns, Jr., Architects, Records are open for research (Accession 43427).
-Jessica Tyree Burgess, Senior Accessioning Archivist