The Library of Virginia

From its first broadcast in 1925 from a studio in the Edgeworth Tobacco factory in downtown Richmond to the multimillion dollar a year business with new studios in Richmond's West End, WRVA has been the "Voice of Virginia" for more than eight decades. Over the years, WRVA has been blessed with excellent staff and announcers. Under the management of Calvin T. Lucy, William R. Preston, and John B. Tansey, WRVA grew from its modest beginnings in the Edgeworth Tobacco factory to state-of-the-art studios on Church Hill.

WRVA's first transmitting plant

Roscoe Turner and his plane

WRVA's first transmitting plant and studio were located at the Edgeworth Smoking Tobacco Company, Main and 21st Streets. Over the years, the station increased its broadcasting capabilities with larger and more powerful transmitters and towers. In 1968 WRVA moved into its new Church Hill studios designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson. The Church Hill studios are now being developed for other uses.

First Transmitting Plant. 1920s. Photograph.

Publicity was crucial to building a radio audience. In 1928, Roscoe Turner, a racing pilot and barnstormer, advertised WRVA and its owner, Edgeworth Tobacco, and his own flying service.

Roscoe Turner and his plane. 1928. Photograph.


At 9 P. M. on November 2, 1925, WRVA broadcast for the first time. Owned by Larus & Brother Company, tobacco manufacturers, the station initially operated as a community service without commercial revenue and broadcast only two evenings a week. The third commercial radio station in Virginia, WRVA quickly became the largest. The thousand-watt transmitter Larus & Brother Company purchased from Western Electric Company was only the fourth such transmitter installed in the United States. WRVA became the most powerful radio station operating between Washington, D. C., and Atlanta. Increasing its broadcasting schedule and its power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts, by 1929 WRVA was broadcasting day and night seven days a week. That same year WRVA became affiliated with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), an association that lasted until 1937 when WRVA joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).

Remote Broadcast - Potato Field

Remote Broadcast

Remote broadcast.  1940s.  Photograph

Remote broadcast.  1940s.  Photograph


In May 1933, WRVA opened new broadcasting studios in the Hotel Richmond, at 9th and Grace Streets. The new space included four broadcasting studios, an announcer's booth, a control room, and office space. Two years later, WRVA built a new 5,000-watt transmitter in Mechanicsville. The tower was the first all-wood self-supporting radio tower in North America. The station built a 50,000-watt transmitter near Varina, in eastern Henrico County, in 1939 that dwarfed the power of other radio stations in Virginia and allowed WRVA to increase the number of its listeners, reaching audiences as far away as the west coast, Canada, and even South Africa. In 1961, with much celebration, the station installed a new 50,000-watt transmitter for WRVA-AM and a 200,000-watt transmitter for WRVA-FM.

In 1968, WRVA moved to a new studio designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson. Overlooking downtown Richmond, the new location on Church Hill symbolically represented WRVA's status as the Voice of Virginia. The studio remained the home of WRVA until 2000 when the station moved to the West End of Richmond.

The WRVA Radio Collection at the Library of Virginia (pdf)

Radio in Virginia

The Development of Radio

Radio Icon
WRVA - The Voice of Virginia

Network Radio

Radio Programming

The Programs and Announcers