During the early 18th century, the capital city of Richmond, Va., became the place to be for many tobacco farmers. Richmond's close proximity to the James River and the Kanawha Canal made it a haven for cigarette growers and shippers. The area's popularity among this contingent sprouted a “Tobacco Row”—a collection of cigarette factories and warehouses that stretched along the river. Many of these facilities were multilevel brick buildings, constructed that way to protect the contents in the structure from potential fire loss.
Three company's former buildings comprise Tobacco Row: the American Cigar Co., Consolidated-Carolina, and Lucky Strike. The five-story, C-shaped American Cigar building was built in 1901, during Richmond's industrial heyday. It was later occupied by the Philip Morris tobacco company in the 1920s. The building features arched windows and door ways, 18-foot ceilings, massive wooden beams, columns, and sliding doors.
The Consolidated-Carolina buildings are two separate structures situated on Tobacco Row. The three-story Carolina building was built in 1897, while the six-story Consolidated building was erected in the 1920s. Both properties were used for tobacco manufacturing, retail, and storage for nearly eight decades.
The Lucky Strike Building, Tobacco Row's easternmost building, was founded by R.A. Patterson in 1871. The Lucky Strike brand was introduced as a chewing tobacco and later as a cigarette. In 1905, the American Tobacco Co. acquired Lucky Strike. The plant eventually closed in 1987.
During the mid-1990s, real estate giant Forest City Enterprises acquired the American Cigar Co., Consolidated-Carolina, and Lucky Strike properties as part of a massive three-phase historical redevelopment project. All together, the properties honor their past as The River Lofts at Tobacco Row.
Forest City was careful to preserve much of the properties' distinctive historical features, while melding in modern elements such as gourmet kitchens and high-speed Internet access. The renovated buildings feature soaring windows, exposed brick, looming columns, and beams.
Today, the American Cigar building has 171 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments averaging 1,000 square feet. Consolidated-Carolina offers 158 luxury lofts and one- and two-bedroom apartments averaging 800 square feet. The property also features an interior courtyard with a swimming pool and seating area that links the two properties. And the Lucky Strike building features 140 luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments averaging 1,000 square feet. The landmark also has a 30-seat theater and an underground parking garage.
Abby Garcia Telleria is a freelance writer in Costa Mesa, Calif.