Architecture | Web Update

Buildings on campus recognized as historical landmarks

Published: January 28, 2013, 11:23 pm ET
Collegian staff

The city of Richmond is known for its Civil War history as the capital of the Confederacy, but three buildings on the University of Richmond campus have been added to the Virginia Landmarks Register for historical importance.

North Court, Ryland Hall and Cannon Memorial Chapel reflect significant aspects of the private university’s history, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

Andrew McBride, associate vice president for facilities, worked closely with the Department of Historic Resources on acquiring landmark registration for these three buildings in the Commonwealth, he said. The purpose of the register is to protect and honor these historical buildings, McBride said.

“It’s a special designation, “McBride said. “Certainly, for the state it becomes one of those things that people talk about. …We become part of that discussion in being part of that list.”

Ryland Hall, known to students as the home of the history and English departments, was one of the original buildings on campus and was named after the first president of Richmond College, Robert Ryland. Ryland Hall consisted of the academic classrooms and administrative offices, including that of the president, and the first library of the university, which contained about 20,000 volumes, McBride said.

When the charter of Richmond College was amended to create two coordinate colleges, Richmond College and Westhampton College, North Court was the whole of Westhampton College, McBride said.

Not only did North Court have the residential component, but it also contained the academic classrooms, kitchen, dining rooms, offices and space for indoor exercise. The Army used North Court as a debarkation hospital during World War I, McBride said.

Ralph Adams Cram, who created the whole master plan for the layout of campus, designed both Ryland Hall and North Court, McBride said. Cram was a significant architect of the early 20th century who designed universities such as Princeton and West Point, as well as St. John the Divine Church in New York, McBride said.

The design was based on collegiate gothic architecture, which includes asymmetry, emphasis on vertical proportions and pointed arches, McBride said.

Cannon Memorial Chapel, constructed in 1929, is important because it was the center of where students at the two coordinate colleges could intermingle, since most activities were separate, McBride said.

The original university was a Baptist seminary in the early 1830s. Richmond College was first located downtown on Lombardy Street until 1914, McBride said.

Next year will mark a century since the university moved from the Fan District to where it is now, McBride said.

“We thought getting this designation would be great for the 100-year anniversary and a great opportunity for the school,” McBride said.

President Edward Ayers said he was grateful to all of those who had helped achieve this recognition before the university’s celebration of the centennial year.

“The recognition of the storied architecture on campus and the inclusion of these key campus buildings on the Virginia Landmarks Register proves that the founders of the university… achieved their goal and established an institution Virginia can be proud to call one of its own,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a press release.

Contact staff writer Marie Jayme at marie.jayme@richmond.edu

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