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Friday, June 10, 2011

Five buildings VCU will tear down next month.

Let me start this post by saying that I am a graduate of VCU, and they have done some great things for this city. I should also mention that a lot of the pictures I use on this site were saved, scanned and hosted by VCU Libraries. Unfortunately, preserving historic architecture isn't one of VCU's strong points. Take a look around the Monroe Park campus: Almost all of the city blocks those buildings, tennis courts and parking lots reside on were once filled with turn of the century row houses.

After a fairly high profile article in the Times-Dispatch Monday on future construction at VCU, I thought I would give a face to the buildings VCU is planning to raze next month. Will the world end when these five buildings are torn down? Of course not. But VCU has quietly (and not so quietly at times) been removing old historic buildings for decades. So as it states in the article above, and another article from February of 2010, there's probably no true historical significance to these five buildings surrounded by parking lots. But taken as a whole, this demolished stretch of the Fan District is very historically significant. Just because VCU has taken 40+ years to raze the block they're about to build on doesn't mean we should give them a pass.

Both of the articles mentioned above state there were no objections from any Fan residents. Is this true? I find that hard to believe, and I hope some Fan residents (and others, for or against this project) leave their thoughts in the comments below.

Below are the buildings that will be demolished next month, and the years built. Click the photos below for the high resolution images.

102 North Linden Street, built in 1900:

104 North Linden Street, built in 1900:

106 North Linden Street, built in 1910:

1000-1002 Floyd Ave - Baptist Student Union, built in 1905:

109 North Harrison Street - Education Annex, built in 1954:

Thankfully, the VCU Meeting Center at 101 North Harrison Street will be saved. It was built in 1910, and has a fairly storied past. But will it really be saved? The VCU six year capital plan calls for another classroom building on Floyd, right next to the one being built this year. And there won't be any space left on that block except for this former church:

And what will take the place of these mostly 100+ year old buildings? Definitely not the worst when it comes to modern VCU buildings, but I for one will be sad to see it built.

20 comments:

  1. I haven't lived in the fan for 40 years, but not a day goes by that I don't think of the charm and atmosphere afforded by those turn of the century row houses; it would be a shame to lose even one more to "progress."

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  2. VCU is sort of a Jekyll-Hide on preserving old buildings. They have done a wonderful job on Franklin. Elsewhere?

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  3. Funny, most colleges place a great precedent and value on historic preservation and tradition. Hopefully VCU will mature, hit its stride and focus on better, not bigger.

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  4. I think sometimes you have to pick your battles. VCU and MCV have both razed buildings I wish they wouldn't have, but they've also maintained buildings that are truly unique.

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  5. Anyone know if there going to recycle the old material? If so how can the public get hold of some old stuff?

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  6. I have seen satellite images and in the last 17 years VCU has only done major demolition across belvidere on Cary for I believe the school of business or arts I also have relatives @ VCU right now.

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  7. So VCU has money to tear down buildings that are the foundation of Richmond but yet they still raise tuition...
    That makes perfect sense.
    The allure of VCU is the blend of new and old, and it seems to me that that theme has been lost in the quest to gain more students, and thus more $$$.

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  8. It's sad to see the charming old buildings go (aside from that 1950s nondescript box), but I'd venture to guess there are nearly identical houses elsewhere in the Fan. So we aren't losing something that's unique and irreplaceable. Hopefully VCU weighs their expansion carefully when it affects the character of the city that supports them. I for one love the old church and think it's a familiar and somehow comforting landmark of times gone by.

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  9. It's too bad they don't demolish the Pollack or Cabell library buildings instead. Those are both examples of ugly 70s architecture.

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  10. the rowhouses that will be torn down are absolutely beautiful buildngs, and represent a particular architectural style that is not that common through the rest of the fan. the neoclassical elements around the doorways are fantastic. hopefully those elements can be saved or reused in some way.

    that being said, just b/c something is old doesn't mean it is historically valuable and worth saving forever. nothing is eternal, all will be lost eventually.

    just as there those who feel a negative impact of lost buildngs, there are those who experience negative impacts of outdated, obsolete, unpleasant and ineffective classroom environments. VCU is growing, not because it is an insatiable monster desiring to consume richmond and destroy its history, as some characterize it. but because there is a demand for high-quality, state of the art education in richmond. sure, they have built some seriously ugly buildings. but they've built some decent ones too. the expansion to the east side of belvidere, no matter what you think of the buildngs, can only be seen as positive for the city. occupied buildings drawing people, activity and business into a formerly vacant and derelict area is good for richmond.

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  11. I'm employed by VCU and believe that they've done a lot of really good things for downtown Richmond. There were many, many areas that were rat infested derelict buildings that needed to be either renovated, restored or torn down. VCU was the only one willing to do this. There have been other building that were just plain ugly and needed to go. However, these buildings look worthy of preserving. I wish that VCU would rethink this area on N. Linden and Floyd and try taking out something that reflects the horrendous builds from the 1970's-1980's...

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  12. Having lived in Richmond my entire 61 years of life, I have seen lots of buildings come and go, including businesses and residences. I can't understand if everything in Richmond has some sort of historic significance to somebody, interested persons should buy them. Otherwise, they are real estate up for sale. Even though the exterior of Robert E. Lee Elementary School has not changed, it breaks my heart when I see the interior that looks nothing like the school I attended. And there are other buildings just like that. At some point, we have to let go - otherwise, put the entire area in a bubble and never change anything.

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  13. Let me get this straight.

    You are pissed off VCU is tearing down building that they already own? Are you retarded? If you care so much about how these buildings look, then why didn't YOU buy them? They are 100 years old and likely lacks proper insulation, up to code electrical/plumbing, and doesn't have fire sprinklers. In trade we lose a (debatable) "beautiful" building with stained/moldy brick.

    Crawl back to the moronic hole you came from.

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  14. Thanks everyone for all of the comments, from the well thought out, to the Youtube-esque that sound surprisingly similar to conversations I had at my 9th grade lunch table in between "Your Mom" jokes.

    Obviously this struck a nerve with people, as it did me. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that I enjoy the old architecture of Richmond, that's the reason I continue to do this blog. Contrary to what some may think, I don't consider VCU evil. As I mentioned above, they've done a lot for this city. But I just felt these buildings deserved some attention before their inevitable demise. And rather than just focus on the past, I'll continue to focus on the present day, whether it be stories like this, or feel-good before/after posts about buildings that have been saved.

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  15. Funny because I think VCU has architectual history degrees

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  16. I think it is definitely good that they are keeping the church, that is a beautiful building. The row houses, yes they are beautiful but there are houses like that all over Richmond and they really are just in the way on campus. The thing that worries me is where chill and grill will be taking place now that this parking lot will be completely covered with an academic building. As as current student at VCU I can definitely say that a new academic building is a HUGE plus. All of our classes are severely overcrowded and old and just bad classroom atmospheres, other than the new engineering and business buildings. This building will be a great addition to campus.

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  17. it seems like the ppl that are saying 'buy the buildings or shut up' are either temporary residents by attending VCU or have been in richmond for so long that they've seen things come and go and are used to it by now. i grew up there, from 82-01. because i admire my city's rich history, that doesnt mean i should go purchase buildings to keep the history alive. if you're not from richmond, or dont plan on staying after you graduate, you wont understand. you just wont. only seeing and/or living these buildings will put you in the mind state of a real richmonder, not a vistor.

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  18. The choice does not have to be one or the other. The brownstones can be incorporated into the new building.

    The three brownstones are lovely and the meeting house as well. These are a must for preservation. The Baptist Student Union is worth preserving also. None of these should be torn down ever. The sad thing is,in Manhattan and other cities like Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere it is often the small historic buildings that eventually add the character to the glitzy large new buildings and streetscapes and are so often photographed for the press and by tourists (or in VCU's case, to attract future students). In this case, VCU should plan the large block building AROUND the three brownstones. They do not take up that much room and it is completely doable. I compliment VCU on creating an urban campus with distinction, that brings the buildings to the street in a downtown zoning manner, and that create green quads, and that occasionally readapt old buildings (as with the AdCenter). However, these brownstones add character and are lovely buildings--they deserve a better future, and could contribute to VCU's urban campus architectural image far into the future if the powers that be and the campus designers use enough foresight. I am currently a student/former adjunct professor who has moved back home nearer to Virginia Tech. That university is in the middle of a conflict on whether or not a forest of old trees should be removed for a new practice football field. A committee studying it has finally recommended it should not. The issue is that the university was going to take the trees down without foresight and it was, once again, the students and faculty that raised a ruckus and asked for preservation. I do not know if Virginia Tech will listen to the committee--but in VCU's case--a committee should (or should have) been formed to assess the situation and perhaps offer the foresight that is missing in this future vision of the Campus. It would not harm the campus to incorporate the brownstones--in fact, several are treated in such a manner in Shockoe Bottom very successfully. In fact, I would admire architects more who recognize the potential to incorporate the brownstonese into the new building--it could be a feature of the entire block that we will all be proud of in the future--you could even open up the backs of the buildings to the new structure--design them into one another. Stella Reinhard

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  19. As a current VCU student, I am nothing short of heartbroken to find out all of the beautiful history VCU has completely erased from history. VCU has never had a clean past dating back to the antebellum era, but VCU is absolutely awful at highlighting the historic city in which it sits. When it comes down to it, it's all about the money, and we we're foolish to ever believe that the greedy admins would care about preserving the lovely houses in the Lower Fan.

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