Prizery Community Arts Center
Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company
South Boston, Virginia
This building, originally an unassuming, three-story warehouse, was part of a thriving tobacco industry that socially and economically defined the South Boston, Virginia, community in the early 20th century. Today it is key to the community’s revival.
The Prizery, so-called because it was where tobacco was bundled or “prized” and loaded for transport, is the most prominent and distinctive structure in a National Register Historic District of similar buildings. As the tobacco industry waned after World War II, warehouses were abandoned, jobs disappeared, and the community's economic foundation eroded.
Today, the community is transformed by the arts, and its heart is the Prizery, with its art galleries, history displays, classrooms, dance studio, tourism center, 400-seat multipurpose room, offices, and 260-seat theater.
The priority in the adaptive use of this structure was restoration of its three essential elements: the 150 identical windows, the masonry, and the timber frame. All windows were restored to be operable; double-hung windows and all of the extant glass was salvaged and reused. The masonry-bearing walls were repaired, and alterations that occurred over time were carefully reversed. The heavy timber frame dominated the interior.
The concept to transform this warehouse into an arts center was to completely express the original fabric. The sturdy timber frame is entirely exposed by separating the new walls and building systems from it. This allows the interior to read as a new layer against the original fabric. Artifacts from the manufacturing process were preserved to honor the building’s heritage.
The most challenging aspect was inserting the theater into the building. To accommodate the large, open span, several large support timbers were removed in a portion of the building, allowing removal of a floor. The top floor was then secured with replacement steel supports, so that the theater became a “shell” in the middle of the building.
Project Architect: Jean Webster, AIA
Architect of record: Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company
Hazardous Materials/Environmental Engineering:
Historic Preservation Tax Credits Consultant:
CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCAD® by Autodesk and
Fire Extinguisher Cabinets:
Marker Boards/Bulletin Boards:
9009 Perimeter Woods Drive
Supplier: Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.