Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Westham Train Station needs to be saved.

Image of the train station when it was the city visitor center building, 1990s.

On November 13, 2017, Selden spoke at the Richmond City Council meeting during its public comments period about the need for the city to save or sell the Westham Train Station building. Below are his written comments. Selden also wrote an opinion piece for Style Weekly about the building that is also worth reading - you can read that HERE.

Selden's remarks to City Council:

Ladies and gentlemen of City Council,

My name is Selden Richardson, and I am a local historian and a Richmond taxpayer.

The indifferent, negligent property owner is the scourge of American cities, and I am sure each of you have seen his handiwork in your districts.  The plywood window, the peeling paint, trash, graffiti, and weed-grown city lots are his calling card.  His actions are selfish and often criminal as his properties are first condemned as unsafe, then demolished once they reach the point of collapse.

I have come to speak about the plight of the Westham train station, a building that stands at North Boulevard and Robin Hood Road, and in this case, the indifferent, negligent property owner is 


This body and this administration are exactly the property owner that I have described, and it is your predecessors and now you who are responsible for this sad mess.

This City has a wretched track record with its historic buildings.  The same policy of abandonment you see in that photograph is precisely what left the Leigh Street Armory a roofless ruin in the middle of Jackson Ward for twenty years.  Having finally been rescued from City ownership, what is now the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, is a point of pride for all Richmonders and an important tourist destination.

On Marshall Street, this administration maintains Richmond’s largest outdoor urinal, another City-owned building formerly known as the Richmond Light Infantry Blues Armory.  Under the its negligent and indifferent owner, this building, almost the size of a city block in downtown Richmond remains dark, overgrown, and padlocked and has been kept in that state for a decade.

Built in 1911 in Henrico County within sight of the Huguenot Bridge, the former Westham train station was moved to this location near the Diamond in 1963 as the City’s Visitors Center and part of a transportation-themed park. That ended in 2002 and for fifteen years this building has been allowed to deteriorate to the condition you see in this photo. 

The building as it appears today.

The small rural train station is a building type that is disappearing from the American landscape.  Railroads tear them down, not wanting to maintain them, so a survivor which is in the hands of a municipality is as much rarity as it is a valuable asset. 

All of which is lost on you, the negligent, indifferent and callus owner.

IF, as the condition of this deteriorating building so clearly demonstrates, IF this administration and this Council are so criminally indifferent about City property, IF our leaders are so utterly devoid of vision and imagination, IF this administration and this Council has no sense of history, let alone of moral or fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of this city, that’s ok - the people of Richmond have a keen sense of diminished expectations of our government and nobody will be surprised.  

                                Original location of the Westham train station.
              Built in 1911 in Henrico County within sight of the Huguenot Bridge.

                        Image from the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Magazine,
                                               Vol. XXI, No. 8,  August, 1989.

Instead, end this demolition by neglect and sell somebody the Westham station - it has been moved before it can be moved again.  Or, better still, give it back to Henrico County, a place that has a well developed concept of community and respect for its past.

HOWEVER, whatever happens, do not continue to let this building deteriorate because of your indifference.  Do not continue the apathy of your predecessors. 

Act on this matter before it is too late, and save the historic Westham train station.

And above all, ladies and gentlemen, do not waste our tax dollars and do not continue to act as the same indifferent, callus, and negligent property owner who is the sworn enemy of a healthy and progressive American city.

Thank you.

For Selden's article for Style Weekly about the station visit their site HERE.

No comments: