J. Bryant Heard (February 12, 1884 – December 9, 1956) was an architect who left his mark in the form of the many buildings he designed while living and working in Danville. With over 900 local commissions, Heard was the most prolific architect in the area during the 20th century.
Heard was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, a son of Elijah Meredith Heard, a tobacconist, and Hettie Williams Heard. He was known by his middle name, Bryant, therefore, in most references he is listed as J. Bryant Heard. He attended VPI and later did graduate work at Carnegie Tech. During his early professional life Heard was associated with a number of prominent Lynchburg architects including John Robert Caldwell, Preston Craighill, Bennett Cardwell and Aubrey Chesterman. He first established an office in Lynchburg in 1909 in partnership with Caldwell. That same year, he married Bernice Sheppard of Texarkana, Texas. Between 1912 and 1922 they had four children. In 1917 Craighill joined the firm of Heard & Caldwell and it became Heard, Cardwell & Craighill. They opened an office in Danville in 1915. Heard lived at 555 West Main Street from 1924 until his death in 1956. His office in the 1950s was above a two-car garage at 273 Howeland Circle behind the residence.
His Danville commissions include:
- Hotel Leland (1917)
- Schoolfield Welfare Building (1917)
- Municipal Building (1926)
- City Armory and Auditorium
- U. S. Post Office and Federal Courthouse (1932)
- Woolworth Building (1937)
Heard and his family lived in the Old West End in the 19-teens and early 1920s at the Westover Apartments. That building at 206 West Main Street was lost to the construction of Central Boulevard. His Old West End commissions include:
- Education Annex, Main Street Methodist Church (1923)
- Memorial Hospital (now SOVAH Health)
- Sunday School wing of First Presbyterian Church
- 221 Jefferson Avenue in the Old West End (1928)
- 842 Main Street in the Old West End
Heard served as a director of the Forest Hills Development Corporation which developed Forest Hills – Danville’s first upscale automobile suburb laid out in Pittsylvania County prior to its annexation by the City in 1932. The Corporation initially stipulated that all houses built in the subdivision should be architect designed, and Heard was the architect for many of them. Decades after his death, realtors still promote the fact that Heard designed a house as a major selling point.
Thank yous to Exploring Danville’s Past.