Long before 2500 West Broad St. was home to the Science Museum of Virginia, tens of thousands of visitors each week passed through the building’s doors. The iconic neoclassical building became a bustling passenger rail station when the first train left Broad Street Station at 1:07 p.m. on January 6, 1919.
After decades of moving people across the country, Broad Street Station moved into a new phase, becoming an innovative and inspiring STEM center in 1977. This represents an extremely successful adaptive reuse of an architecturally and historically significant landmark.
The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad (RF&P) select a design submitted by New York architect John Russell Pope for a new passenger station to be built in Richmond, VA. Pope's body of work includes the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives and the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The RF&P and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad announce that a new station will be built on a 50-acre tract on Broad Street. The land had previously been part of Colonel John Mayo II's 600-acre estate, a confederate encampment during the Civil War and the Virginia State Agricultural Society's new Fair Grounds.
Plans feature an innovative rail yard and track system designed by Harry Frazier, chief engineer for C&O railroad (modern-day CSX). Using the elevation to slow the train coming into the station, the ability to turn in a circle instead of backing up and then again using the elevation to provide momentum for the train’s return trip were just a few of the features that made the site unique for its time – and certainly for Richmond, whose other train station lacked any of these features. Ultimately, the design improved the efficiency of train operations.
Ground is broken for Broad Street Station.
January 6, 1919
The first train pulls out from Broad Street Station at 1:07 pm.
April 22, 1943
A record 33,324 passengers arrive, depart or pass through Broad Street Station, the highest number in one day.
Lightning strikes and damages the station’s terra-cotta Rotunda dome, requiring it to be replaced with copper sheeting.
The RF&P’s passenger rail service ends. Amtrak takes over passenger train service to Richmond and throughout much of the country.
Broad Street Station is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Encouraged by supporters of the new state science museum--including the Virginia Academy of Science, Anna and Fleet Garner and preservationist Mary Ross Scott Reed--state officials began to consider acquiring the additional 12-acre property, including Broad Street Station, for a state office park to accompany the previously purchased 18 acres for the new Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters.
November 15, 1975
Amtrak moves all passenger train operations to a new station on Staples Mill Road. The last passenger train departs Broad Street Station at 4:58 am.
RF&P sells Broad Street Station to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Governor Mills E. Godwin unveils the Science Museum of Virginia’s first permanent exhibit gallery, the Discovery Room.
The Museum completes the addition of the Ethyl IMAX®DOME & Planetarium (now known as the Dome theater).
The Virginia Department of Historic Resources erects a marker to commemorate the station’s place in the history of the Commonwealth.
The Museum completes extensive exterior renovations, new interior spaces and a new exhibition.
Mary Morton Parsons Earth-Moon Sculpture “the Kugels” is dedicated. At the time, the 29-ton solid granite globe of the Earth Kugel was the Guinness World Record-holder.
The Museum opens 40 new interactive experiences. Also unveiled were multipurpose galleries devoted to the history of Broad Street Station and Virginia’s prehistoric past.
The Museum restores the Rotunda’s original terrazzo floor and Tennessee pink marble wainscoting.
The Dome undergoes at $1.1 million renovation including new seats, carpeting and refurbishment of the screen.
The Museum launches the Inspire the World capital campaign to transform the Science Museum of Virginia’s galleries and programs.
The Museum opens its first new permanent gallery in over a decade, Boost!, a new approach to human physiology and the science of staying healthy.
The Dome reopens with an upgraded state-of-the-art digital full dome projection system and a new NanoSeam™ screen. The $2.2 million renovation unveils the Digistar 5 system with 3D capability, making the Dome an IMAX theater no longer.
Restoration to the Rotunda’s interior dome ceiling is completed. The newly resurfaced ceiling returns to its original grayish-blue hue.
The Museum opens a multi-faceted exploratory learning place for children five and under, LightPlace.
The Museum’s most ambitious gallery in its history, Speed, opens to the public. The Speed gallery, featuring an SR-71 Blackbird supersonic jet hanging from the ceiling, unveils the intersection of motion and time across a world of science and technology.
The Museum opens the Dewey Gottwald Center, a sleek new structure that serves as a flexible venue for community events and blockbuster traveling exhibitions.
The Forge opens to the public as the Museum's new permanent makerspace. The Forge harnesses the power of the maker movement, celebrates innovation and encourages guests to roll up their sleeves to create.
The Museum celebrates the 100th anniversary of the day the first train left Broad Street Station.