Southern States Silos, Richmond’s Forgotten Landmark

The Southern States Silos and the James River as seen from Mayo Bridge

photography by: Omri Westmark

Once an independent city and now part of Richmond VA, Manchester abounds with dozens of industrial monuments, a vestige of its bygone era as a 20th century’s manufacturing powerhouse. Towering over the James River’s southern bank, the Southern States Silos are perhaps the town’s most conspicuous building, and yet, in spite of its unmissable presence, this industrial landmark is still forgotten in time, waiting to be explored.

Sprawling across the southern bank of the James River, Manchester’s old town district was known for decades as a regional industrial hub. Nowadays, many of the neighborhood’s red brick-covered factories were either repurposed or demolished in favor of modern apartment buildings. Amid the ever-changing townscape, the formidable Southern States Silos still stand as a testimony for Manchester’s historic role as a major manufacturing center.

 

Tucked away along the intersection of Mayo Bridge and Manchester Rd., the industrial complex was erected during the 1940’s as a grain elevator. Initially owned and operated by the Cargill Corporation, the storage facility often triggered a traffic havoc around it as a string of grain-carrying lorries waiting to unload their seedy cargo, was extended all across the nearby bridge. The grain elevator and its surrounding buildings were subsequently purchased by the Southern States Cooperative, which embellished the silo’s northern façade with an iconic sign that greets drivers and pedestrians on their way to Manchester ever since.


The complex exchanged owners again in 2003 and shortly after was decommissioned, ultimately falling into a state of disrepair. In attempt to revitalize the now-dilapidated landmark, the former storage facilities became a large-scale canvas during the 2016’s RVA Street Art Festival, where local artists cover several derelict places throughout the city with colorful murals.

 

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the Southern States Silos’ famed past and sheer uniqueness probably won’t be enough to save the structure from its impending demise. Coveted by multiple real-estate developers, the 2.2-acre tract was recently rezoned for a mixed-use project, one of many along the Manchester Floodwall. Though concrete timetable is not clear at the moment, the industrial monument is set to be demolished somewhere in the near future, making its precarious present a truly remarkable rarity to witness.