300 South Randolph Street
Enlarged, 1900 & 1952
One of the few public school buildings built in Richmond prior to 1900, and one of two of this Italianate-style still surviving.
Located in the area formerly called Sydney and now Randolph, the school represents the expansion of the City’s system in response to growing educational demands and demographic changes. One of four remaining schools in Richmond built before 1900, it is architecturally the best surviving example of a school constructed in the Italianate style. With its four story entrance tower, ornamental terra cotta string course, window hoods and fine brickwork, the building is an excellent example of a turn-of-the-century urban school.
The oldest section, fronting on Randolph Street, was built in 1896 and added to in 1900, with minimal change in style, details or roofline. In 1934 another classroom addition was made, slightly smaller in size and simpler in detail. The third and final addition, completed in 1952, contains a cafeteria and a combined gymnasium/auditorium as well as services.
The original Randolph School building fronts on 300 S. Randolph Street. This 1896-1900 section has a 5 bay front and 10 bay side elevations, and features a 4-story mansarded tower centered in the Randolph Street or east elevation. Originally the main entrance this tower is flanked on either side by 2 window bays. Both the north and south elevations of this original portion are identical. In a symmetrical arrangement both side elevations have alternating groups of single and double window bays in a 2-6-2 relationship. The most westerly 8 bays of both 10-bay elevations project outward from the front or easterly part of the building. The rear or west elevation repeats the bay pattern of the front or east elevation, except for the tower. This elevation has been modified by the addition of a three story structure at the center of this elevation which connects the original section to the 1934 addition.
The Randolph School, named like the street it was sited on for a prominent Richmond family, was commissioned in 1894. William Fox, the Superintendent of City Schools wrote in his 1895 annual report “Many of our schoolrooms are too much crowded, and the number of unaccommodated pupils does not diminish. It is hoped that the building in process of erection on Randolph and Chaffin Streets will afford some relief, yet it cannot afford all that is needed in that section of the city.” When Randolph opened to its first students on September 15, 1896 it was filled to capacity with 416 white pupils, 8 teachers, and a principal. Tuition when parents could pay was $8.17 a year. The principal was paid $150.00 a year and teachers $50.00 a year.
The neighborhood Randolph School was built to serve was Sydney, an early western suburb of the city. Bordered on 2 sides by city landmarks – on the south side by Hollywood Cemetery, and on the west side by Byrd Park, the neighborhood provided housing for the ironworkers of the Tredegar Ironworks and stonecutters.
While designed originally as a white elementary school with 8 rooms, Randolph was expanded within the first few years of its construction. An influx of black families to the area resulted in the school’s designation as a “colored school” in 1930. An addition in 1934 allowed the school’s expansion to include junior high classrooms and facilities. In 1952 a gymnasium and cafeteria were added to the building. In 1970-1974 Randolph was designated as a Special ducat ion facility. The school was closed in June 1974 and has been partially used as a community center since that time. (VDHR)
Times change. Chaffin Street was long ago renamed Grayland Avenue, and the former community center is now Randolph Place, providing affordable housing to senior citizens.
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