VMFA To Renovate and Expand Robinson House

Richmond, Va. — Construction to expand and reclaim interior spaces of the historic Robinson House on grounds of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) will begin in September 2017.

Once reopened, in late 2018, the building will house a regional tourism center and VMFA’s Human Resources Division—providing a new front door both to Richmond visitors and prospective museum employees.

“In reimagining the future use of Robinson House, we are creating a vibrant new welcome area both to Richmond and VMFA,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA Director. “Many visitors begin their time in Richmond at our museum, and we’re honored to collaborate on an initiative that will benefit the entire region as a tourist destination. We also are delighted to create an engaging new environment where people can begin their careers or continue their professional journeys at our museum.”

The 3,200-square-foot addition will introduce an accessible entrance that visitors can approach by walkways from the VMFA parking deck. The expansion will also house an elevator, stairway, and three floors of glass-enclosed porches that connect to the original 7,600-square-foot structure. Easily accessed from both Interstate 95 and Interstate 64, the visitor center, with public restrooms, will occupy half of the first floor, while VMFA’s Human Resources team will move into office and training space on the second and third floors.

Robinson House will also offer a first-floor gallery featuring an exhibition about the complex story of the site from the 17th century to the present. The multilayered history includes native peoples and English colonists; an antebellum family and the enslaved people who labored for them; the nation’s best-known Confederate veterans’ home; a scientific research institute; and a center for art programs and studio classes. In 2013, the house was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

To protect the design integrity of the original house, sections of which date from the late 1820s and the 1850s, the addition will be built on the rear, or north side, of the structure. Interior work on the period structure will include restoring the space to reflect historical accuracies, such as showcasing the grand central staircase. New mechanical and electrical systems are among other building updates. A long-time VMFA goal, the restoration of Robinson House has been listed as the top priority on the Commonwealth’s six-year Capital Outlay Plan.

Richmond-based Glavé & Holmes is the architect. Howard Shockey & Sons Inc., based in Winchester, Va., with an office in Richmond, has been awarded the construction contract.

About the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the largest comprehensive art museums in the United States. VMFA, which opened in 1936, is a state agency and privately endowed educational institution. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret art, and to encourage the study of the arts.