Friday, September 16, 2011

Before and After - Imperial Tobacco Building

This is both my favorite, and least favorite post. Favorite because of how amazing this building is, least favorite because it's long gone.

The Imperial Tobacco Building stood at the corner of 6th and Canal Streets in downtown Richmond. I'm guessing it was torn down not long after these pictures were taken in March of 1977, but I'm not sure. And since then, probably over 30 years, it's been a parking lot. Why was this beautiful building torn down for a parking lot?? We may never know. See the bottom of this post for the pictures of the present day parking lot.

Click the photos below for the high resolution images.

Looking up 6th Street:

Two other buildings on 6th Street (also gone):

Front door:

I discovered these pictures awhile ago, but it wasn't until I wrote this post about the construction of the Downtown Expressway that I figured out where the Imperial Tobacco building had been located (you can see it on the left side of the pic in that post). A quick trip to the corner of 6th and Canal St confirmed this...The people who left us with a full half block of parking lots in place of these amazing buildings were kind enough to leave the front steps, and some of the front and side walls as a reminder. As you scroll below you'll see that even the old stone window sills remain, now acting as a curb between the sidewalk and the parking lot. This first picture is from the same angle as the first 1977 image above:

The old front steps:

Old windowsills:

Photo courtesy of VCU Libraries


  1. My Dad used to take us exploring - abandoned buildings, civil war sites, etc. We went inside before they tore them down. I remember that day. I thought I remembered a big theater in the building and thought that it had something to do with music.

  2. Thank God the 60's and 70's are over...can you even imagine them tearing this building down today?

    1. Some places had fewer to deal with and saved them. The RMA built the downtown expressway through the factory and garage block leaving only the office block.

      Durham today is similar to Lynchburg, Danville, Richmond, Petersburg, Chase City, South Boston, Winston Salem, Oxford, Kinston, Greenville, Wilson, Mullins, Lake City, Timmonsville, and Tifton. There were also older stemmeries in Kentucky, Limbe Malawi and Harare Rhodesia. The cigarette, cigar, cut plug and smoking leaf plants for John Player in Nottingham also looked similar.

  3. Thanks for the story Isaac!

    And yeah, I'd hope that if these buildings still existed today, they would be saved.

  4. The old John Marshall High School should still be standing too.

  5. I park in that parking lot today. I can't step from the concrete window sill to the sidewalk without wondering the history of this lot. Thank you so much for posting! I was so curious to see what this space looked like before.


  6. My dad and grandfather both worked for The Imperial Tobacco Co. of Great Britain & Ireland LTD. The last building standing in Richmond is the former Richmond Head Office at 5th & Franklin between the John Marshall Hotel and the Richmond Times Dispatch, made of gray granite, very plain. The stemmery, warehouse, and head office garage were located across Canal between 5th and 6th streets occupying the entire block.

    Picture page 82, Richmond The City On The James 1902. All were built around 1900-1905 except the RHO on Franklin which was built in 1928 to replace the building in your picture.