Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Season of Big Ideas

The recently deceased Navy Hill project is not the only Big Idea in Richmond city planning that has come and gone. Richmond’s designers and architects, politicians and businessmen have often become enamored with grand plans, and Navy Hill is just the most recent of these always sweeping and often misguided proposals.  One good example emerged in 1972 that combined Capitol Square and a suburban shopping mall, the entire park was turned into a concrete plinth on which to display Virginia’s Capitol Building. The hollowed interior of the hill below the Capitol was to be devoted to subterranean offices and that barrack of commuter culture, a parking deck.

As ridiculously ugly as the 1972 Capitol Square proposal was, for sheer destruction of downtown Richmond nothing beats a proposal from the 1920s to create a vast plaza across Broad Street, running north several blocks from the Capitol to a mammoth City municipal campus.  The title given this horror makes it seem even more evil in its banality: “Civic Center.”

The appalling plan proposed in the 1920s to erase the center of the City of Richmond, replacing it with a concentration of law and government in a formal park setting.

The drawing, “Proposed Civic Center for Richmond Virginia – Study No. 4” is from the collection of the Library of Virginia and was among the files of architectural drawings discovered some years ago in the basement of the current City Hall. This document was not the creation of some wild-eyed consultant from out of town but is a City-generated  production.  The signature on the plan, “Drawn by W.F. Beamon,” is that of William F. Beamon, at an employee of the City of Richmond Department of Public Works.

Christopher Silver, writing in “Twentieth-Century Richmond: Planning, Politics and Race,” noted “James Bolton, Chief of the city’s Bureau of Survey and Design, informed the newly reconstituted City Planning Commission in 1932 that his department already possessed a number of preliminary studies concerning ‘development of a Civic Center,’” and this drawing may be part of those studies.

The roll of historic buildings lost if this plan had been implemented would have been a monstrous blow to the history of Richmond and a historic and architectural loss of national importance.  The buildings to be destroyed in the “Civic Center” proposal include Broad Street Methodist Church, designed by Albert West in 1859, which then still stood on the corner of Tenth and Broad.  Both First Baptist Church (1841) and First African Baptist Church, built in 1876, would be leveled, as would the John Marshall House (1788).  Perhaps worst of all, the 1814 Monumental Church would have been demolished, and its shattered walls probably dumped down the hill into Shockoe Valley along with much of Richmond’s architectural history. 

In the 1920s proposal, VCU’s Cabaniss Hall was saved from the proposed demolition of many buildings around it, including the Monumental Church (to the right).  Ironically, Robert Mills’ 1814 church still stands as one of Richmond’s greatest architectural treasurers, while Cabaniss Hall (shown here during demolition in 1992) no longer stands.

If you stood today on the corner of Broad Street in front of the National Theater and held one hand pointed north, up Seventh Street, and held one hand pointed east, down Broad Street, almost everything visible between your hands would have been erased.  In the distance, the square bulk of the 1846 VCU Egyptian Building would have stood in silhouette against the green tree line of Church Hill.  You’d be looking at it across twenty-five city blocks of broken glass, brick dust, and shattered siding boards.

On the right side of the study, the brick walkways of the Capitol Square meander much as they always have, but the landscape uphill has been seriously altered. In the corner of Capitol Square the distinctive footprints of the Finance Building (1895) and the 1922 State Office Building remain in “Study No. 4.” However, the brick Bell Tower that was the visual terminus of Franklin Street since it was constructed in 1824, is gone.  Virginia’s elegant Governor’s Mansion (1813) has been erased from the landscape and apparently replaced by a statuary group mirroring the Washington memorial.  The Memorial Hospital (built in 1900) on the corner of Broad and Governor streets may have been spared, but the three houses behind it of Morson’s Row (built in 1853) appear in this drawing to be covered by a street labeled, “To 14th & Main Sts.” This new street was apparently planned to blast its way downhill toward the river, taking a path directly through another now-vanished Richmond neighborhood called Council Chamber Hill.

The boundaries to the north of Capitol Square have been expanded in this proposal, replacing the ornate Gothic granite Old City Hall (1894) with one of two “museums” on the plan.  The central museum building with flanking State offices would look north over a large open space with symmetrically planted trees.  A new State Library would replace the one then in Capitol Square and on the west, an enormous “Auditorium” building almost the size of a city block forms the western side of the complex.

A detail of the “Civic Center” plan, showing the reengineering of Capitol Square, now open to the north, toward the looming presence of the Richmond Municipal Building tower. 

Across Broad Street a large park set with symmetrical walks and a “mirror pool” faced the “Municipal Building” and tower. The building and its central tower were designed by Richmond architectural firm, Carneal and Johnston, working with Alfred Bossom, an English architect.  Bossom designed the First National Bank Building at 823 East Main Street, one of Richmond’s first “skyscrapers,” which was completed in 1913.  Bossom termed the proposed design of Richmond’s new municipal tower “nothing short of brilliant,”  saying “If those who were so ready to criticize the award and the manner of building that was provided in the winning design had only taken the trouble to examine the plans first, they would have forgotten to criticize.” 

As planned, the new Municipal Tower would be 40 feet taller than Bossom’s 262-foot bank building on Main Street and just short of the height of the modern Richmond City Hall, which is 315 feet tall.

When the plan for the new Municipal Tower were published, they weren’t universally hailed as the triumph that architect Bossom promised.  “The design for the new municipal building in Richmond is described as a combination of a Greek Temple and an Egyptian obelisk,” commented the Radford News, adding bleakly, “it looks like some kind of combination.” 

A Lynchburg newspaper was merciless in its folksy criticism of the new municipal headquarters and made comments later termed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch as “a vein of very objectionable sarcasm:"

The new Richmond building appears to be a cross between the most modern type of twenty-foot-front skyscraper and the old-style tobacco warehouse.  If it were a little more rounded it might look like a capsized carpet tack , and if it were globular, it might look like a shoe button, but as it is, it looks nothing more than Richmond’s new municipal building.  We understand that the people of Richmond sent to New York for an architect to select plans for the building.  He must remind himself of the fisherman who fished all week and caught a frog.

The towering City Hall and its surrounding Civic Center did not survive the two economic blows of the Great Depression and World War II.  With peace and buoyed by the optimism and industry of post-war America, in 1946 the Richmond Planning Commission issued a new Master Plan, part of which again addressed the idea of a carefully planned “Civic Center.”  The formality of the earlier plan gave way to a more modern and relaxed arrangement, with much attention given to the needs of the Medical College of Virginia (today’s V.C.U. Medical Center).  A screen of generously-spaced hospital and research buildings (labeled 18 on the plan) surrounds downtown on the north-east. 

This proposal for a new “Civic Center”
appeared in the City’s 1946 Master Plan.

Despite calling for the demolition of Richmond’s granite gothic masterpiece, the 1894 City Hall, the 1946 Master Plan claimed to have great respect for particular historical structures, calling for the destruction of any context around them to properly show them off.  “All these buildings are now surrounded by other structures,” the authors of the Master Plan state, “…and the creation of open space around them is imperative if their charm is to be preserved.”  The effect would be more of an unnatural open-air display of Richmond’s history than then seeing these irreplaceable structures against the variety of buildings that were always their backdrop and setting.

A detail of the 1946 plan for Downtown Richmond.

The site of the much-derided 1894 City Hall is shown as an open lawn north to Broad Street, framed by the new (1940) State Library building on the east and what is now the General Assembly building on the west. The lawn continues north of Broad between a large municipal office building and a State office building, and ends at the reproduced 1818 City Hall and the 1812 John Wickham house, now the Valentine Museum.  The City Market at Sixth and Marshall streets has been expanded to take up an entire block.  Across Marshall Street, a massive “Armory, Sports Arena and Auditorium” was planned to replace the 1910 Richmond Blues Armory.  To the east, a “State Museum” and its formal landscape has replaced the fated Council Chamber Hill neighborhood.

Richmond’s 1814 City Hall.  Alarmed by the collapse of part of the Capitol in 1870, the City of Richmond tore the building down three years later.  Part of the 1946 plan was to duplicate it as an annex to the Valentine Museum.

One of the most astonishing proposals of the Master Plan is the reconstruction of Richmond’s first City Hall, which was completed in 1818 and demolished by the City 55 years later.  “The Valentine -Wickham House was designed by Mills, and it is suggested the brick buildings crowding this architectural gem on the west be torn down and replaced by a reproduction of the first City Hall which was also designed by Mills.  This should add greatly to the historical appeal of the Civic Center.”  This “New, Old, Old City Hall” is shown on the plan above marked 12.

In the grand sweep of Richmond history, the drawing called “Study No. 4” is not that important.  It is a 90 year-old plan that was never implemented and an odd survivor when so much more valuable documentation has disappeared over the years.  And yet, as a cautionary tale, it is invaluable.  So is the nasty testimony of the plan for the suburban mall and Capitol Square mashup and the ideas put forward by the 1946 Master Plan.  They all illustrate the horrible consequences of poor planning and overly bold architects in the employ of ambitious politicians.   

The urban prairie where the real Navy Hill once stood and our giant, dead coliseum will have to wait for another wave of municipal planners.  They will no doubt come armed with PowerPoint presentations of vast, open spaces teeming with happy citizens, baking in the Richmond heat and surrounded by the inevitable ring of colorful if meaningless Festival Flags. Navy Hill will no doubt one day again be built on, but let us not forget the dire tales provided by the proposals of the past and the irreversible consequences of the next Big Idea.

- Selden.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dancing Pavilion at Lakeside, north Richmond, Virginia, postcard, 1918.

Rare postcard showing the Dancing Pavilion at Lakeside.

Back of the postcard. Feel free to let me know what is written. 

From the Street Railway Journal, May 1897.
I assume the building was built 1896-1897 or thereabouts. 

A ideal summer in Richmond in 1900 - from the Richmond Dispatch, June 10, 1900.

- Ray

Monday, February 24, 2020

Postcard of C. B. Haynes and Co. store, Edison Phonograph dealer, 603 E. Main St., promoter of Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette, dated April 30, 1908.

C. B. Haynes and Co., 603 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia
Click for larger view.
C. B. Haynes headed a company in Richmond that was the chief distributor in Virginia for Thomas Edison's National Phonograph Company. Haynes's company sold and distributed Edison records and phonograph players to local dealers for all of Virginia and the Carolinas. Haynes was also instrumental in getting Richmond's Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette to be recorded by the Edison Phonograph company. This post focuses on the postcard and Hayne's business in Richmond. A second post will discuss Haynes' work with Polk Miller. 

A few weeks back a friend sent me a link to an Ebay sale where this postcard was up for auction. It sold for some $300. It is a very rare card. This kind of postcard is called a real-photo postcard. They were popular in the early 20th century. These were photographs developed onto photo paper with a postcard backing. They let "anyone" make a postcard. But only a few real-photo postcards of any particular scene or person were produced.

Luckily, a good quality image of the front and back of the card was posted online on Ebay. That was all I really needed. My friend sent the Ebay link to me knowing that I like rare Richmond postcard views but also because I'm interested in the Edison records company. I grew up in Menlo Park, New Jersey were Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and the phonograph. In fact for the first year of my life I lived in a house my father built that was only about half a city block from where Edison's original laboratory buildings stood. The Edison Tower now occupies that spot. We lived right behind the tower.

This is the back of the postcard. It was addressed to "Miss. E. Hawkins" of Dixfield, Maine. The person sending it writes that he is the person standing in the image of the front of the postcard with his hat off. Looks like a Mr. Beveridge signed the card. I checked the Richmond city directories  and the 1908 directory lists "Willard N. Beveridge" working as a clerk for C.B. Haynes and Co. His home address was 507 W. Clay St. Other records - including census information - helped confirm that he is Willard Newton Beveridge, born in 1889 and died in 1974. A lifetime resident of Richmond, Beveridge is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

 Image from the 1908 Richmond City Directory.

 Here is his obituary:

As for C. B. Haynes... from census records, state records, and city directories, I determined that he is Charles B. Haynes and was born in 1856 and died in 1934.

The 1920 census states that he was he was born in Michigan and lists his occupation as "Music Dealer" and the industry as "Music House." His Virginia "Certificate of Death" - a copy I found on - lists his birthplace as Detroit, Michigan and his age as 77 years old. His died December 23, 1934 in Grace Hospital. It states that he is married to "Mary L. Haynes."  He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in the Elks Section.

Image from Find A 

His obituary from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec. 24, 1934.

From what I can find in newspapers on Chronicling America, Haynes began selling Edison records in November of 1906 at his first store which was located across the street at 602 E. Main St. The company moved to their 603 E. Main St. location (the one in the postcard image) in June of 1907. The Edison Phonograph Monthly of August, 1907 noted that:
C. B. Haynes &; Co., Edison Jobbers, of Rich- 
mond, Va., who by buying out Magruder & Co., 
of that city, in the latter part of last year, be- 
came the only Edison Jobber there, have just 
moved into their new quarters at 603 E. Main 
street. The ground floor, devoted to retail trade 
exclusively, is fitted up with two sound-proof 
testing booths. The second floor is given over to 
the wholesale stock of Edison Records, accom- 
modation being made for 75,000. The third 
floor is used for storing machines, and also for 
the receiving and shipping departments. C. B. 
Haynes & Co. have one of the best fitted stores 
in the South, and are rapidly extending their 
From newspaper accounts we learn that Haynes moved his store to four other locations. in the downtown area of Richmond. By March of 1910 the company moved to 5 N. Seventh St.; in June of 1911 they are located at 121 W. Broad; by 1916 the store is at Broad and Second; and in February of 1920 Haynes opened a large store at 19 and 21 W. Broad St. 

In late 1920 he retired from the business. 

An image of his store building appears in the March 15, 1909 issue of The Talking Machine World magazine. But I doubt that was the "real" building:

Here's a larger view:

The building pictured makes it look like its on a corner but the two buildings that it might be (603 E. Main St. or  5 N. Seventh St.) did not sit on corner lots. Maybe they used this imaginary view so one could see the "entire" building. 

Mr. Haynes' career is documented in other issues of The Talking Machine World including these profiles:

The image above lists Haynes as standing in the last row second to the last man on the far right.

Is the second man in the postcard image Haynes?
Hard to tell - but those pointy ears seem similar.  

Haynes retires but the company continues operating
under the name "C.B. Haynes Co., Inc." of Richmond for a few more years.

Click on the image for a larger view. It gives great details of the record industry.
More news on the record distribution trade in Richmond, Virginia. 

Haynes advertised in Richmond newspapers on a regular basis. Here are just a few of those advertisements: 

 Nov. 23, 1913 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

 Dec. 16, 1913 advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.


Coming soon - part two: Richmond's Charles B. Haynes and Polk Miller and His Old South Quartette recordings by Edison Records, 1909-1910.

Image result for polk miller and edison recordsings


Thanks to Richard Bland for sending me that
postcard image of the Haynes 1908 store on E. Main St.!

- Ray

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Lost Richmond Historic African American Cemetery Needs Respect

The recent discovery of what are believed to be the remains of enslaved African Americans on the grounds of the University of Richmond is an important event for all Richmonders. For descendants, it can mean the memorialization of family members whose resting places were long hidden. For historians, the burials near the campus lake can help fill in the antebellum history of this part of Henrico County and the culturally important Westham area.

Finding the lost cemetery is especially important to the school, which has been suddenly presented an excellent opportunity to expand the their multicultural appeal. Once research is completed on the site, the University of Richmond plans an extensive program: a memorial to be ready by 2020, to be followed by a program of outreach to “…connect with the descendant community and support ongoing work to integrate historical context into [the] campus…” The possibility of slaves buried on the campus and interpretation of this burying ground has obviously become a major incentive for the University, judging by some of the senior administrators who were named to develop this new-found facet of the school’s history.

The historic African American Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery adjoining the University of Richmond campus is now completely overgrown and derelict.

The University of Richmond’s attention has been dragged to the subject of historic African American cemeteries and their response was prompt. Having first explored and now researching the cemetery on the college grounds, justice demands that UR now address a neglected and vandalized African American cemetery that adjoins the campus and that University officials have been aware of since the school’s campus was established in the far west end of Richmond more than a hundred years ago.

This marker shows the corner of the University of Richmond campus where it adjoins the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery.

In 1873, decades before the University of Richmond purchased its campus property, a fraternal organization called the Sons and Daughters of Ham bought an acre of land on the edge of Bandy Field on the northern edge of what is now the UR campus. The lodge house built by the Sons and Daughters of Ham on the site served the Reconstruction -era African American community where Bandy Field park is today. This fraternal group was typical of a large number of clubs and societies that were popular with blacks during Reconstruction. Occasionally, these organizations later became formal insurance companies and banks, but the majority were simply social and self-help groups, often providing for burial funds when a member died. The Sons and Daughters of Ham reserved part of the acre plot for burial of an unknown number of their members. The lodge house burned in the 1940s, and like the community it served, the Sons and Daughters of Ham itself became extinct. Information as to who was buried in the cemetery became lost.

This modern survey of the Sons and Daughters of Ham lodge and cemetery property shows its position at the point the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and the University of Richmond all meet. Note also the incursions of roads and paths into the property.

One of the few remaining headstones in the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery was that of Moses Bradford, whose Government-issue granite marker had the distinctive shield design only used for veterans of the Spanish-American War. Bradford, age 29, listed his occupation as “quarryman” when he enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 1898. Bradford was among the “colored” troops digging trenches in the hot tropical sun near Santiago de Cuba a few weeks later, and was felled by sunstroke. So profoundly overheated that he received a disability discharge due to debilitating headaches, Bradford left the Army in January 1899. He died in 1936 and was buried at the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery, where he no doubt expected his grave to be kept in good order on the grounds of the organization hall.

The now-missing tombstone for Moses Bradford. The shield device is common to all markers for veterans of the Spanish-American War.

Bradford’s tombstone stood unmolested for eighty years until some group of idiots (it would have been far too heavy for one person to move) thought it would be a good idea to steal the massive granite marker. Today Moses Bradford’s tombstone, paid for by his sacrifice, is gone and is nowhere to be found.

The cemetery at Bandy Field is now completely overgrown, but its preservation is being shepherded by the Friends of Sons and Daughters of Ham, Inc. who monitor the condition of the cemetery. They know all too well the University’s interest in the property. Twenty years ago, the parcel came under close scrutiny as the location is key in linking the UR campus to Bandy Field, which the school had negotiated to purchase to expand the campus. Only by owning the Sons and Daughters of Ham property could they have linked the campus and what is now the park. Not only did they know the acre parcel existed, they knew it was a cemetery, too.

This is the corner marker of another burial plot in the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery, now in dense woods. The metal pipes that once formed a low fence that marked the graves are missing.

It is only fitting that the students of the University of Richmond be made cognizant of the importance of this cemetery and the history of the adjoining Bandy Field. A small investment of time and money would transform this site, and make it a valuable asset of the increasingly popular Bandy Field Park. This acre of woods, with a minimum of investment, could, like the graves down by the lake on campus, be pointed to as an effort to understand the history of the area. The Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery could be the touchstone for any preservation program UR might develop in the future. The University taking a hand in the preservation of the Sons and Daughters cemetery would be a terrific public relations piece for the school and the cause of a lot of good press for the university.

The vandalized grave marker of another member of the Bradford family in the cemetery between Bandy Field and the University of Richmond.

The University of Richmond is hardly a stranger to cemetery preservation, and in fact is already involved with another historic African American cemetery a dozen miles away. The school, in collaboration with Virginia Commonwealth University, opened the East End Cemetery Collaboratory in 2017 to work on one of a series of historic cemeteries in the far opposite corner of the city.  “Our work has included studies of demography, ecology, gravestone symbolism, medical sociology and personal histories,” recounted one participant. The sheer area of the East End Cemetery dwarfs that of the site near the campus. A tiny amount of the money spend on such wide-ranging, high-tech research in Richmond’s East End would have turned the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery into an unmistakable statement of the University of Richmond’s intentions toward not only its history but that of the whole area.

The overturned tombstone of Queen V. Johnston. Her marker is decorated with classic funerary imagery: the gates of heaven swinging open. Today, this marker is lost under the accumulation of leaves and vegetation.

In a recent New York Times editorial, University of Richmond President Ronald Crutcher spoke of the school’s efforts to increase awareness of its past: “We’re enlisting a public historian to coordinate with faculty and students to help us tell a fuller, more inclusive story of who we were, are, and aspire to be. Work that includes memorializing figures such as the enslaved people who are believed to be buried on our campus and the first black alumni of Richmond’s undergraduate program.”

If that’s true, then Dr. Crutcher, please budget some money toward the preservation of the historic African American cemetery that abuts the college grounds. If UR is now so very interested in their ethnic past, let them work in concert with the Friends of Sons and Daughters of Ham, Inc. and put forward some of the school’s ample operating funds to clear the plot, and provide appropriate signage to explain the presence of the cemetery on the hill overlooking their campus. And above all, if the University of Richmond is so mindful of the importance (and fragility) of its history, then let its students be made aware vandalizing cemeteries is a serious crime. If the school can devote money and time to help restore a cemetery in the far East End, the University must surely help a site that literally touches their campus. This lack of interest by the University of Richmond might be perceived as part of a cynical plan to demean the importance of the cemetery prior to acquiring it for development. To help improve the grounds of the cemetery would dispel that accusation. 

The theft of Moses Bradford’s tombstone, issued to mark the burial place of an honorably wounded veteran, is an absolute disgrace. Funds are privately being collected by a small but dedicated group to replace it. Hopefully, the original won’t be found in pieces behind the University of Richmond’s nearby Fraternity Row. No matter who stole the marker, the growing sensitivity, nationally and locally, to the plight of historic black cemeteries is a trend that will not go away. The school needs to step up, work with the Friends of Sons and Daughters of Ham, Inc., and help fund the preservation of the Sons and Daughters of Ham cemetery. To ignore this site beside their campus while promoting their sudden interest in bodies buried down by their lake or in the far East End is the height of hypocrisy, and an exercise in deliberate neglect unworthy of the University of Richmond.

- Selden Richardson. 


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Edward H. Peeples, Jr. (1935-2019), Civil Rights advocate, long time VCU professor and a great guy.

A nice article on Ed Peeples who died earlier this week. From VCU's Public Affairs office:

Edward Peeples, longtime VCU professor and tireless social justice advocate, dies

Ed Peeples
Ed Peeples conducted extensive research in issues of social justice and was a civil rights advocate who was involved in a variety of human rights reforms in Virginia. 

Edward H. Peeples Jr., Ph.D., a longtime civil rights advocate and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, died on Sept. 7. He was 84.

Peeples was emeritus associate professor of preventive medicine and community health at VCU. His academic focus was in the fields of medical behavioral science, public health, epidemiology and sociology, but he also conducted extensive research in issues of social justice and was a civil rights advocate who was involved in a variety of human rights reforms in Virginia and elsewhere in the South.

“Ed was a beloved figure in our community life, and deeply respected for his passion and activism in social justice and human rights,” said John Ulmschneider, dean of libraries and university librarian at VCU.

Peeples, who was born in 1935, was an alumnus of Richmond Professional Institute, where he received a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1957 and was a member of the basketball team. He later received a master’s degree in human relations (intergroup relations) from the University of Pennsylvania in 1963 and a Ph.D. in sociology with a concentration in medical behavioral science from the University of Kentucky in 1972. He taught at the Medical College of Virginia and RPI beginning in 1963, left to focus on his Ph.D., and then returned to teach at the newly formed VCU in 1968.