Special Collections and Archives
Architectural Resources in Special Collections and Archives
Some of the most architecturally significant buildings of 19th and 20th century Richmond, Virginia are located on, or adjacent to, the campuses of Virginia Commonwealth University. Richmond's architectural history is one of the major areas of collection in Special Collections and Archives. Our focus has been documenting the architecture of what is known today as Richmond's Fan District and especially the buildings of VCU's Monroe Park Campus. Let us know if you have any questions or comments.
A new online resource on Jackson Ward and its architecture is available from VCU Libraries' Digital Collections site.
Drawing for the VCU President's House, 1894.
The architectural drawings of many of VCU's buildings on the Monroe Park Campus are housed in Special Collections and Archives. The collection has some late 19th/early 20th century images but most of the drawings date from the 1970s through the present. The VCU Master Site Plan collection documents the growth of the Monroe Park Campus and includes correspondence, reports, drawings and various plans dating primarily from the 1960s through today -- including the University's attempt in the 1980s to expand into the Oregon Hill neighborhood.
Other significant collections include: the Fan District Association Archives which includes copies of its "Fanfare" newsletter beginning with issues from 1964 and continuing through today and other materials; the Robert W. Stewart Papers include numerous drawings, slides, photographs, correspondence and other materials collected by Richmond architect and preservationist Robert W. Stewart (1937-1994); the James W. Allison Papers is a unique collection of materials dating primarily from the 1890s and includes architectural drawings and perspectives, correspondence, and other items documenting the building of 910 West Franklin Street, what is is now the VCU President's House; the Elizabeth Scott Bocock Papers include a variety of architectural plans of Richmond buildings collected by the Richmond preservationist; the Richard Lee Bland Collection of Richmond Memorabilia includes a variety of materials that Bland, a Richmond artist, has gathered, including some photographs, architectural drawings and a large amount of Richmond ephemera that may be of interest; the Richmond Renaissance Archives includes drawings, correspondence, reports, and other plans of projects dealing with the redevelopment of downtown Richmond (1980-through the present); and the Richmond Planning and Design Collaborative Archives is a large collection of architectural drawings and other materials of a local architecture firm. Three other collections worth noting were compiled by VCU graduate students in the course of their studies and include materials on Richmond art glass, wallpaper, and African American church buildings.
Virginia Heritage Site -- Virginia Heritage is a consolidated database of finding aids to manuscript and archival collections and provides information about historical materials that document Virginia history. It searches the finding aids or guides to collections found in most of Virginia's repositories including VCU's Special Collections and Archives. For researchers interested in using primary source materials and documents on topics related to Richmond and Virginia history, begin with this source. Two excellent examples are finding aids from the Library of Virginia that include a wealth of information about Richmond architecture - the Guide to the Richmond (Va.), Bureau of Permits and Inspections, Building permit architectural blueprints and specifications, 1907-1949 and the Guide to the Richmond (Va.) Office of the City Engineer, Architectural drawings, plans, and plats, 1809-1975.
The VCU Photograph Collection includes numerous photographs of buildings, events, and individuals of the Monroe Park Campus (1920s-) with many off campus images of Richmond. There is a growing collection of Virginia maps and prints collection that dates primarily from the 19th century and focuses on Richmond. Special Collections and Archives also houses a number of published works that feature historical images of Richmond including published materials featuring specific Richmond photographers. Most of these books feature images of the city's architecture.
Rarely Seen Richmond: Early 20th Century Richmond As Through Vintage Postcards -- Richmond Postcard Collection includes scanned images of over 600 postcards of Richmond buildings and scenes dating primarily from 1900-1930.
A second image database maintained by Special Collections and Archives is Through the Lens of Time: Images of African Americans from the Cook Collection. Online researchers can search nearly 300 nineteenth and early twentieth century images of African Americans from the Valentine Museum's Cook Collection of Photographs. Many of these images show both rural and urban architecture from the central Virginia area.
American Architect and Building News - Special Collections and Archives recently acquired the following volumes of this important work: v.1 (1876),v.3 (1878:Jan.-June),v.5/6 (1879),v.11/12 (1882),v.23 (1888:Jan.-June), v.71 (1901:Jan.-March)-v.94 (1908:July-Dec.); Title change to American Architect - we have: v.95 (1909:Jan.-June)-v.98 (1910:July-Dec.),v.101 (1912)-v.102 (1912).
VCU Annual Architectural Symposium Abstracts -- This annual conference was begun in 1993 by Dr. Charles E. Brownell, the head of VCU's Architectural History Program. In the words of Dr. Brownell, the conference was created "to air valuable work by current and recent VCU graduate students, as well as important research by other members of the VCU family circle." For four years (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998) abstracts of the papers presented were published. Many of the 37 published abstracts focus on Richmond architecture. This site lists the titles of each abstract.
Freeman File -- An index to articles from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Richmond News Leader covering the years 1920s-1980s.
Richmond Directories -- Special Collections and Archives has Richmond city directories for the following years:
- Microfiche: 1819, The Richmond directory, register and almanac.. pub. by J. Maddox; 1850/51, Montague’s Richmond directory and business advertiser; 1852, The Richmond directory and business advertiser.. by W.L. Montague; 1855, Butters’ Richmond directory; 1856, The Richmond directory and business advertiser.. by M. Ellyson; 1858/59, Richmond business directory.. by E.M. Coffield & Co.; 1860, Directory for the city of Richmond.. by W.E. Ferslew.
- Microfilm: 1882-1901.
- Bound copies: 1872, 1892, 1908, 1913, 1936-1940, 1942, 1946-1949, 1951, 1953- 1993, 1995-1998, 2002-today.
Graduate Student Papers -- For nearly 20 years Dr. Charles E. Brownell, head of VCU's Architectural History Program, has deposited copies of his graduate students' reports on architectural topics to Special Collections and Archives. The subjects of the papers include a variety of Richmond architecture history topics. Email Ray Bonis, Assistant Archivist, if you questions about the topics of these reports or about questions concerning architectural resources in Special Collections and Archives.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps from the Sanborn Map Company Archives, late 19th century to 1989 for Virginia are available on microfilm on the third floor of the library and online to researchers in the VCU Libraries.
Undergraduate Student Reports -- Copies of undergraduate student reports on specific buildings in Richmond are housed in SCA. These reports were compiled by students of Professor Buie Harwood, chair of VCU's Interior Design class. These reports include images of the building being studied, its history, information about the building patron and architect, a discussion of its architectural features, and other information. While a majority of the reports focus on buildings on West Franklin Street, other buildings in the Richmond area are also included.
The William J. Anderson House -- This web site explores the architectural elements of 1000 West Franklin Street, an example of the Richardsonian Free Style in Richmond. This site also includes information about the Richmond Stove Company (Anderson was president of the company) and William R. Mason (1848-1921), a Scottish born stone mason, whose work in Richmond is seen on many buildings on West Franklin Street.
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) -- To search the RLIN AMC file which includes all of NUCMC's online cataloging.
National Archives and Records Administration -- Information about the National Archives and NAIL, a searchable database that contains information about a wide variety of NARA's holdings across the country.
Library of Congress - American Memory Project -- The American Memory Project consists of primary source and archival materials relating to American culture and history. Among its collections are digital versions of Virginia, Especially Richmond in By-Gone Days by Samuel Mordecai (1786-1865), published in 1860 and Souvenir Views: Negro Enterprises & Residences, Richmond, Va. published in 1907. Souvenir Views has many rare images documenting Richmond's African American community.
Richmond National Register Travel Itinerary - This a comprehensive site for information about Richmond's architecture. The site was developed by the Richmond Department of Community Development's Planning and Preservation Division in conjunction with the National Park Service. VCU Libraries' Special Collections and Archives supplied many of the historic images used in this site.
Virginia Heritage Site -- Virginia Heritage is a consolidated database of finding aids to manuscript and archival collections and provides information about historical materials that document Virginia history. It searches the finding aids or guides to collections found in most of Virginia's repositories including the Library of Virginia, the Virginia Historical Society, and many of Virginia's colleges and universities. For researchers interested in using primary source materials and documents on topics related to Richmond and Virginia history, begin with this source. Two excellent examples are finding aids from the Library of Virginia that include a wealth of information about Richmond architecture - the Guide to the Richmond (Va.), Bureau of Permits and Inspections, Building permit architectural blueprints and specifications, 1907-1949 and the Guide to the Richmond (Va.) Office of the City Engineer, Architectural drawings, plans, and plats, 1809-1975.
Virginia History Listserve One of the most important online tools for those interested in Virginia history is the Library of Virginia's Virginia History Listserve -- an "electronic forum where researchers can learn more about the work of other scholars, inquire about the location of sources, debate issues, raise questions, and learn about current events in the field."
Library of Virginia's Multi-Catalog Search. Site includes links to the LVA's book and manuscript catalogs and their image databases. One of the most useful databases for the study of Richmond architecture is the Richmond Esthetic Survey/Historic Building Survey - An online search engine providing interactive access to maps, photographs, and detailed written survey reports documenting the architecture of central Richmond, Virginia, in 1965. Report, photograph, and map images are available online.
Richmond, Virginia History Internet Resources. This site was created by Special Collections and Archives and includes links to over 80 web sites focusing on some aspect of Richmond history -- includes links to Richmond area libraries, museums, and repositories.