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What’s that tower above Church Hill?

For years, this peculiar structure has towered over the Church Hill area, ominously looking down at us as we go on about our busy lives. Some of us, however, question just what is that thing?! Does the tower serve any purpose? Who owns it?

I had the same dire questions, and instead of searching through CHPN’s article history and finding that exact answer, I decided to brave the pleasant 70 degree weather earlier last week to find out for myself.

My journey begins at the cross between N. 21st and E Grace, where I almost got hit by a car while crossing the stop sign (darn Richmond drivers!). From there, I trotted along N. 21st until I reached E. Broad Street and made a right onto it. Another right into N. 22nd St and I arrived at a building with the name ChildSavers brandished by its door and behind it…the elusive tower I’ve been pursuing.

Unfortunately, the building was closed by the time I arrived, but I did find out that ChildSavers is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing our children for school, address mental health, and recover from trauma through child development services! They’ve done a lot of good for our community and our children. Click here for some success stories!

The WRVA Building was designed by American architect, Philip Johnson. As its name implies, the tower was originally built to host WRVA (AM), one of Virginia’s very first radio stations! Here’s a not-so-fun-fact about Philip Johnson: there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding his views on how society should be run!

Also, as pointed out by our phenomenal readers, the tower was also used by none other than Richmond’s Q94! There weren’t any sources over the web that I could find, but Q94’s Chief Engineer confirmed it over a short phone call. You rock, CHPN audience!

Currently, while the building is occupied by delightful people, it doesn’t seem that the tower itself is in use for any broadcasting. Instead, it overlooks the area, serving as one of Church Hill’s most notable landmarks.

Here’s a closer look at the tower!
The base of the tower.

But that’s not all that’s special about this place! It’s actually nestled in a picturesque area, with a beautiful view of the city!

Sorry for the amount of ground you see in the picture… I’m afraid of heights and didn’t want to get too close to the edge!

I didn’t notice those words carved into the ground in the above picture. Look at the bottom left! I’m unsure of what they read, however.

Here are some much braver onlookers, enjoying the view.

While scurrying around the area, I noticed a dirt path leading down towards the left side. Feeling adventurous, I decided to follow it.

Here’s a picture of the view I had.

After some moments of walking, the path opened up to a breathtaking view of the other side of the city.

That’s all for this article, folks! Make sure you visit this area, search “Church Hill Overlook” on google maps and it’ll lead you there. It’s a popular spot, not hidden at all, but it can still be easy to miss if you’re not around often. It’s worth the trip!

Oh, and just for your information…I later found out there was an easier way to get to the area while making my way back. Just use the stairs at N. 21st and E. Franklin. There’s a “Taylor’s Hill Park” sign right by them.

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Stephen Messer
Guest

that was the Q94 building back in the 80s not just AM radio as the article implies.

Kiet Vo
Guest

Stephen Messer Hi, I’ve been trying to find out more about the history of the building. Could you point me off to your source for Q94? I want to include it when I revise the article to include your information. Thank you for commenting!

Wendy Anderson
Guest

I don’t have a source either except I saw it with my own eyes as a child, but i can second Stephen. It was definitely the old Q94 building.

Wendy Anderson
Guest

Ah ok. It appears WRVQ Q94 was the FM sister company to WRVA the AM station.

Graham Jennings
Guest

“WRVQ is a Top 40 radio station in Richmond, Virginia owned and operated by Clear Channel Communications. It is the second-oldest station in Richmond, signing on in August 1948. Originally the station was owned by Laurus Brothers Tobacco as were sister stations WRVA-AM and WRVA-TV. In 1968 the radio stations were sold to Southern Broadcasting and moved from the former Richmond Hotel into a new building in Church Hill that overlooked the city skyline, ( The TV station was sold to Jefferson Pilot and is now Raycom Media-owned WWBT).”
https://enacademic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/1976239
Best I could find without going way too into the weeds. shrug

Kiet Vo
Guest

Wendy Anderson Graham Jennings Stephen Messer I just called Q94 and spoke with their chief engineer! He confirmed that the building was in fact used by Q94! Thanks for the help you guys. I’m going to go ahead and put that in the article!

Stephen Messer
Guest

When I was about 12 I rode my bike there from Oregon Hill and asked for a tour of Q94, it didn’t seem to be something they were used to but they let me in while they were broadcasting it was a big room with shelves covering the wall full of 8 tracks and mics In the middle of the room , I watched as they played the theme for “mr bad joke “ and did a few voices , it was an interesting insight.

Graham Jennings
Guest

Too cool. Thanks for the update Kiet Vo!

Michael Brap
Guest

Use to be able to climb tower until they put locks on it in early 2000

Lane Jennison
Guest

It would be cool to host a lora wan gateway on that tower

Kiet Vo
Guest

Actually, while doing my research I found this neat brochure. https://childsavers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Overlook-Brochure-FINAL-9.17.15.pdf

Kiet Vo
Guest

Not sure if they’re still doing it though!

Jessica Allam
Guest

Kiet Vo while Q94 was likely more we’ll known it also housed WRVA AM1140. My father ran a show there and I have so many memories of going to work with him and learning about how radio stations work.

Kiet Vo
Guest

Jessica Allam I’m jealous you got to have that experience with your father! What was the name of the show, if I may ask? I’d love to see what it’s about

Chruch Hill Local
Guest
Chruch Hill Local

That building is cool! I have seen plenty of pictures of it but non from it. Until somebody from RVA’s official discord server climbed up there and took pictures.

Helen M McCauley
Guest
Helen M McCauley

Richmond is built on 7 hills. Can you tell me what they are?

Amy Garmon
Guest

Kiet – happy to give you a tour next week or in the future: agarmon@childsavers.org