Don’t pull plug on historic hospital, VUU
2/8/2024, 6 p.m.
Without question, it’s good news that Virginia Union University is partnering with New York investor The Steinbridge Group to build about 200 general-use residences along the campus’ north edge.
The investment group plans to commit $40 million to the project, and school officials say it will be the largest financial partnership in VUU’s history.
Indeed, it’s a wonderful development for VUU and a key step in the school’s $500 million plan to overhaul the campus.
But, as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details. Specifically, the historic Richmond Community Hospital that literally is a majestic monument to thestruggles and successes of the Richmond black community.
Clearly, the structure is more than just a building. In the early 1900s, the hospital was founded in Jackson Ward by Dr. Sarah Garland Jones and other Black doctors who weren’t allowed to work at white hospitals in Richmond. For many years, Richmond Community Hospital was the epicenter of care for black people in the city, especially during segregation.
The hospital moved to Overbrook Road in the 1930s and to its current location in Church Hill in 1980. In 1995, the doctors, who owned the hospital as part of a for-profit partnership, sold it to Bon Secours, according to news reports.
Dr. Jones, it should be noted, was the first Black person and first woman to be certified to practice medicine by the Virginia State Board of Medicine.
At issue is whether the old hospital building on Overbrook Road will be demolished or repurposed. As reported in this week’s Free Press front page article, the hospital is to be torn down, according to VUU President Hakim Lucas. But he adds, the university will commemorate the old hospital in some fashion.
The Free Press is against demolition of this historic building. And we’re concerned that not enough thought is being given to its future. The hospital structure represents too much hard work and history to be an afterthought.
Perhaps it should be resurrected as a museum to celebrate the sacrifice and achievement of those brave doctors who started it more than 100 years ago. At the very least, it should be added to the National Register of Historic Places. That would avail it to everything from federal grants to public and private money for renovation and repairs.
Whatever happens, this much is clear:
The old hospital was there for Black Richmond when the community needed it the most. Now it’s time for us to return the favor.