The property located at 2710 East Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, is a prominent historic building which was home to one of the city’s most popular casinos. The eight-floor edifice is classified as a casino baron’s Palace, having been the residence of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst and his family. It was here that the publishing magnate ran his gaming establishment, The Oakland, and it was the scene of some of the most luxurious gambling dens in the country. The building’s architecture is a concoction of the Richardsonian Romanesque and French Renaissance styles, with a dash of Beaux-Arts mixed in for good measure.
The Palace Was Divided Into Three Parts
The hotel’s original section, fronting East Main Street, is a combination of the two architectural styles. A Romanesque archway with lacy Victorian ironwork graces the building’s entrance, which is crowned by a gilded finial. The tycoon’s mansion, built in 1869, is similarly adorned and contains many of the ornamental flourishes that one would expect to see in a palace of that rank. The building is an example of the Craftsman movement in design, with a mixture of the Romanesque and Renaissance styles found in its courtyards and grand entranceway. The design is considered to be the work of renowned San Francisco architects, William and James Brooks, and their firm, Brooks and Brooks.
William Randolph Hearst commissioned the Brooks brothers to design the mansion in the first place, and their subsequent work still embodies many of the hotel’s original features. The mansion’s roof is a striking example of the ornamental style, featuring a mix of tiles from Fournier and Company in London and handmade tiles from Spain. In total, the Brooks brothers designed over 30 buildings in and around the city of San Francisco, including three others in this article.
The Parlor Was Once a Playroom
The building’s interior contains an array of magnificent architectural details and features which are representative of the property’s former life as a hotel. One of the most prominent rooms is the aptly named ‘The Playroom’, which was used for entertaining guests and holding lavish poker games and cocktail parties as the building’s heyday faded. The space is decorated in English and French country styles, with Sheraton-style furniture and a large stone fireplace.
The room was originally used as a private study for Hearst, containing his impressive collection of over 4000 books. Many of the tomes are still available for public perusal in the library. During Victorian times, the playroom was the scene of some of the social events that took place within the four walls of the palace, including numerous birthdays and naming ceremonies for the mansion’s then-resident children. Today, the Parlor’s walls feature a mix of old masters and modern landscapes, which contribute to its playful yet elegant atmosphere. The study is now a meeting space for the hotel’s business travelers and provides a view of the street through a large window which was originally found in the London Bridge station.
The Breakfast Room
Located on the ground floor and adjacent to the Library/Parlor is the Breakfast Room. The classic American cuisine restaurant here is another example of the building’s Beaux-Arts design and is one of the highest-rated eateries in the city. The restaurant’s patrons come from all over the world and its walls are adorned with the signatures of famous faces. Many a famous name is etched upon these walls, including those of Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor. Unfortunately, the originality of the signatures is somewhat impaired by the fact that the majority of them were done in ballpoint pen. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the city’s most photographed restaurants and a regular haunt of the rich and famous.
The ground floor hall is another magnificent room which was originally part of a country club that William Randolph Hearst financed. The tycoon, who was an enthusiastic member, enjoyed playing golf here and hosted numerous events, including dinner parties and charity fundraisers, in the room. He also used it for displaying his collection of antique furniture and for entertaining important guests. The space is adorned with a magnificent marble fireplace and a gilded marble-topped table which was once the property of France’s Louis XVI. The seating area here is also where Hearst conducted many of his business transactions.
How Did This Get As Fancy As It Is?
This building encapsulates all that is splendid about nineteenth-century architecture and the high life of a bygone era. The design and details are exceptional, from the luxurious fittings and abundant artwork to the mix of Beaux-Arts and Romanesque inspired details that adorn the exterior. This was a location which experienced the heyday of the American Gilded Age and became one of Richmond’s most famous buildings. Its opulent history is richly documented and it remains a testament to the good taste and extravagant lifestyles of one of America’s most esteemed industrialists.