Historic hospital tops endangered sites list

Preservation group deems Richmond Community Hospital at risk

George Copeland Jr. | 5/16/2024, 6 p.m.
A key part of Richmond’s African-American history. A criticalvresource at a time of medical segregation. A place where many who …

A key part of Richmond’s African-American history. A critical resource at a time of medical segregation. A place where many who worked, were born, or said goodbye to loved ones. And now, one of Virginia’s many endangered historical sites.

Richmond Community Hospital was formally recognized as one of 10 endangered historic places in Virginia, as part of Preservation Virginia’s annual list of buildings and locales at risk of decay, destruction or disappearance throughout the state.

Members of the nonprofit group announced the list Tuesday morning at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. They were joined by representatives from groups who nominated the various sites included on the list and supporters of the sites themselves, including Viola Baskerville of the Save Community Hospital group.

“These historic sites represent important spaces in communities throughout the Commonwealth,” Preservation Virginia CEO Elizabeth S. Kostelny said. “From Hampton to Roanoke, Loudoun County to Brunswick County, these historic sites are in need of awareness and assistance to ensure they are preserved for future generations.”

Other sites included the Grand Contraband Camp in Hampton, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Albemarle County, the Massies Mill Odd Fellows Hall in Nelson County, Lower Surry Church in Surry County and the Suffolk African American Waterman Villages in the City of Suffolk. The Jackson Blacksmith Shop in Goochland County, the Waterford Historic District in Loudoun County, the Blick Plantation in Brunswick County and the Washington Park Caretaker’s Cottage in the City of Roanoke also were named as part of the list.

The designation is the latest development for the Richmond Community Hospital since Virginia Union University announced its plan to build housing in the Northern area of its campus earlier this year. The potential removal of the building as part of that project inspired a public backlash, as well as offers to assess and figure out ways it can be a valued part of the city.

While gatherings in support of the hospital’s repair and reuse have been stymied recently by weather, those leading this community effort were honored to have their concerns about and goals for the building recognized.

“It elevates the exposure to Virginia about the importance of saving Richmond Community Hospital,” Ms. Baskerville said. “We’re hoping that we can then elevate that attention to the national level.”

“We look toward, hopefully, that this puts Virginia Union on notice that it is endangered and that inviting Historic Richmond in to do assessment now is a good thing to do.”

When asked for a response to the designation of the hospitals, a school representative acknowledged the group’s work while making clear that their housing project was still a major priority.

“Preservation Virginia does important work in the region, and the university is taking their point of view into consideration as we prepare to build new apartments in the North Side,” a VUU spokesperson stated. “Richmond has a pressing need for more housing options, and Virginia Union is working to be part of the solution.”

The next steps for Preservation Virginia, according to Ms. Kostelny, will involve working to raise awareness of “the need to restore the purpose and revitalize these places.”

These efforts will include collaboration with the groups that nominated sites, influencing and contributing to public policy and other initiatives that will shine a light on the state of these places and the need to improve and maintain them.

Of the 180 sites listed as endangered and supported over the years by Preservation Virginia, only 10 percent have been lost so far, according to the group.

“Our goal is to strengthen the community’s ability to articulate how historic preservation and historic places enrich the local economy and the lives of all residents,” Ms. Kostelny said.

For Ms. Baskerville and those already working to preserve the hospital, plans are underway for an event in July celebrating the 90th anniversary of the hospital opening. Another rally outside the building is expected to be held in early June.

“We’re brainstorming and looking at ways that we can sustain the movement,” Ms. Baskerville said. “It is in its infant state, but we hope it grows strong.”