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Historical Traditions of the Master Plan

The University of Richmond traces its roots to 1830 at a private academy called Dunlora, which was operated by the Reverend Edward Baptist under the sponsorship of the Virginia Baptist Education Society. In 1832, the Virginia Baptist Seminary was formed with the Reverend Robert Ryland as principal and the only teacher. The seminary was located on a farm called Spring Farm near the present day Bryan Park. In 1834, the seminary was moved to what was then a western suburb of Richmond, one-half mile from the city limits. The seminary, located near the present intersection of Grace and Lombardy Streets, and the school remained at this site for eighty years. In 1840, Richmond College was chartered as a liberal arts and sciences college for men by the Virginia General Assembly.

Two other events provided significant impact in shaping the existing physical campus: the move to the present campus and the establishment of the co-ordinate system. The origins of the present campus date to 1910, when the Richmond College Board of Trustees purchased approximately 290 acres including Westhampton Lake. Ben Green's old mill pond, now known as Westhampton Lake, stretched 1,326 feet in length and divided the property into two parts. The lake covered approximately fourteen acres and predated the Civil War. Classes at Richmond College started in September, 1914. Westhampton College, a college of liberal arts and sciences for women, was also established in 1914 on the same property. George White McDaniel, chairman of the Board of Trustees committee to secure the deed to the property, noted that the property was, "sufficiently large for all future purposes" of the institution. The property was outside the City of Richmond in Henrico County. Twenty-six years later, Richmond College was once again within city limits as the City of Richmond annexed a considerable portion of Henrico County.

President Frederic William Boatwright (1895–1946 term of office) envisioned a “Collegiate Gothic” style of architecture for the new University campus. In 1910, the architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson was commissioned by the Board of Trustees to draft plans for the future College. Ralph Adams Cram, eminent institutional architect, was responsible for establishing the enduring style on the University of Richmond campus. The Board of Trustees also engaged the service of a landscape architect Warren H. Manning, a former apprentice to Frederick Law Olmstead. Manning was responsible for designing and locating roads, supervising the cutting and planting of trees, locating walkways, and landscaping the terrain so that it would drain appropriately. President Boatwright worked with Cram and Manning to formulate a master plan which considered fifty years of growth for the institution on its present site. The master plan included provision for a college of medicine, a law school building, an observatory, a school of business administration, an engineering school, a gymnasium and swimming pool, a major library and homes for professors.

Construction of new buildings designed by Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson began in 1911. The first building constructed on the new site was Ryland Hall, which housed administrative offices, lecture rooms, the art hall, meeting space and a library with 40,000 volumes. It was followed by North Court. Two residence halls for men were also constructed: Thomas Hall and Jeter Hall. Cram is credited with remarking that the collegiate Gothic style symbolizes “eternal values” and “exalted ideals of education and religion.” Cram also boasted that there “wasn't another site in the whole United States as suitable for a college, except for the site at West Point.”

During World War II, the University of Richmond supported the national effort to conserve food by establishing victory gardens on campus. In the spring of 1943, an area on the Westhampton campus near River Road was cultivated with plots assigned to faculty who wished to make a garden. The University of Richmond expanded over time as the following schools of study were established:

1870 The T.C. Williams School of Law

1921 The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

1949 The E. Claiborne Robins School of Business

1962 University College (The School of Continuing Studies)

1976 The Richard S. Reynolds Graduate School of Business

1992 The Jepson School of Leadership Studies

Perhaps, the most significant event in the recent history of the University occurred in 1969, when alumnus E. Claiborne Robins gave the University a gift valued at $50 million. The University moved forward to raise a matching amount of funds. This led to the construction of new facilities and the renovation of existing campus buildings.

Over the years, the University of Richmond has been characterized by its rolling terrain, commodious open space and lush tree canopy. This landscape was the primary determinant in the initial master plan organization and has continued to dictate the development patterns as growth has occurred. This methodology has been continuously embraced by those in leadership positions within the University and has clearly elevated the University of Richmond to a top position nationally in the aesthetic quality of its setting. In 1999, the University of Richmond was recognized by the Princeton Review as the most beautiful campus in the United States.

The architecture itself, through strict adherence to the original vision, continues to differentiate and elevate the campus above even those universities that profess to have the finest master plans and architecture.

For more than eighty years there has been a remarkable fidelity to the vision held by past generations of trustees.

That constancy has resulted in the extraordinary physical and academic environment that now exists on the university grounds. One fundamental objective of this planning process has been to preserve the fruits of that constancy of vision, while accommodating the facilities needed to fulfill the academic mission.