As a company that has been in business for over 116 years, we know a thing or two about the importance of history – and the responsibility of preserving it. That’s why when our Richmond team, led by Steve Norton, VP and General Manager of Hilldrup Richmond, was contacted to preserve a piece of Virginia state history, we were excited for the opportunity. But the piece of history that our team was asked to move wasn’t just a small antique – it was a throne-like speaker’s chair that’s nearly 300 years old.
History of a Virginia Relic
In January 2019, our team moved the original speaker’s chair dating back to the 1730s. The homecoming of the chair to Richmond marked its first return back to Virginia’s capital in over 80 years. Since the 1930s, the chair has been on a long-term loan to Colonial Williamsburg.
A team of Hilldrup crew members carefully moved the chair inside of the Old House Chamber at the State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia as part of a display to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Virginia State Assembly. In fact, a reproduction of the speaker’s chair had to be swapped out in order to make room for the original chair.
“[The speaker’s chair] survived the destruction of the colonial Capitol by fire in 1747, served as backdrop to the momentous House debates of the 1760s and 1770s, survived the Revolutionary War and its removal from Williamsburg to the new Capitol in Richmond in 1780 and emerged unscathed from the devastation of the American Civil War,” described House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights in a news release.
Move-In Details and Challenges
- Stairs leading to the Virginia State Capitol: 30
- Weight of the speaker’s chair: less than 300 pounds
- Total crewmembers: 3
- Weather: rain during delivery and clear during move-out
The weather conditions during the move-in of the speaker’s chair were less than favorable with rain in the forecast. Our team used plastic protection to carefully cover the chair and move it up the flights of stairs to the South Portico of the Virginia State Capitol.
This journey up the stairs was not in our team’s original move plan, but we know that plan A isn’t always feasible on move day. The change of plans occurred because the accessibility of the elevator within the building wasn’t something our team could rely on – the chair didn’t fit. Therefore, the physical move of the speaker’s chair up the stairs was completed by our team composed of Calvin Hodges, Tyray Horne, and Alvin Faison. Thanks to the flexibility of our team and our familiarity with the State Capital from previous move projects, we were able to move the chair to into the Old House Chamber easily.
The job wasn’t done once the speaker’s chair was in its rightful place. We returned a few months later, this time to move the chair out and prepare it to be transported back to Colonial Williamsburg.
Move-Out Plan and Completion
After four months of display in the State Capitol, on April 6, the iconic chair was ready to for its journey back to Colonial Williamsburg. The same crew arrived on-site to begin preparing the chair for its move out of the building. The chair was carefully removed and made its descent down the State Capitol’s stairs – this time with no rain-protection needed – and into a liftvan to be transported back to Colonial Williamsburg.
We were pleased to exceed the level of trust and confidence that was instilled in our team to see this move transition from beginning to end. Our crew’s agility, communication and commitment to the move and those who oversaw the transition from the capital made this move was a true success.