Roanoke Valley Visitor Center and O. Winston Link MuseumAPVA's Gabriella Page Historic Preservation Award for 2005 Roanoke, Virginia
Originally built in 1905, the Roanoke Passenger Station is located in Roanoke's Historic Rail District across from the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. In 1946, N&W Railway decided to remodel and modernize the passenger station. Raymond Loewy, a leader in industrial design, was selected for the redesign. Loewy's work included the design of the Coca-Cola bottle, the Sears Cold Spot refrigerator, the Studebaker and the interior of Skylab space center.
In 2000, the Center In The Square, the History Museum, and the Historical Society of Western Virginia planned to reopen the two-story passenger station as a welcome center for the Roanoke Valley, which is known as a railroad town, and to create a permanent home for the famed photographic work of O. Winston Link. The building was considered a natural for showcasing his photo history of the steam engines built and used by Norfolk Southern Railroad in Southwest Virginia before their extinction. The goal was to restore the 30,439 square foot passenger station to its earlier glory of 1949 and to serve as a "door" to the Roanoke Valley for citizens and visitors alike.
The renovation of the building received historical tax credits and included much research, and architectural and engineering programming. Renovations to the building exterior used the existing pallet of materials - brick, mill finish aluminum, Indiana limestone, clay tile roofing - restoring those existing materials and using similar materials for the new stair and existing trackside enclosure. The new stairway was designed to mimic the original escalators and the landing created a viewing platform, which overlooks the track and original railroad roundtable. The stairway is also a gallery in itself that leads to the five galleries on the lower level. Each gallery is designed to tell part of the railroad history and Link's work and equipment. A lecture/movie theatre can accommodate two school buses of students.
Where possible, while satisfying the new program for the station, Loewy's interiors were kept in tact and restored where damaged. The first floor included an office suite, conference room, and gift shop. The toilets were restored using the same fixtures preserving the character of the building while meeting ADA requirements. Great care was given to renovate the dome ceiling in the lobby and the N&W Railway emblem in the ceramic tile floor. Original train station wooden benches were restored and used in the lobby. Primary materials used inside were terrazzo, ceramic tile, travertine, structural clay tile and plaster.
State-of-the-art data and communication service was extended to the site and concealed underground along with power, water, sanitary, storm drainage and fire suppression systems. Outdoor mechanical and electrical equipment are protected from flooding by means of a brick veneer wall with a custom floodgate system. Because the original limestone wall allowed moisture to penetrate into the building a new drainage system/water collection system was designed eliminated the problem and protecting the museum. Special considerations for mechanical and electrical systems were needed to enhance and protect the museum artifacts.