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Must-See RVA! — Charlotte Williams Memorial Hospital

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.

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AKA, Memorial Hospital
1201 East Broad Street
Built, 1899
Architect, Albert W. Fuller
VDHR 127-0395

In memory of the girl who drowned.

The Memorial Hospital is a dignified and well-composed example of the stately neo-Palladian Revival that was popular at the end of the 19th century, especially in Great Britain. The style, sometimes grouped with the Second Renaissance Revival and Neoclassical styles, has its roots in 18th century English Palladianism.

(Scottish Architects) — J. M. Brydon

British architects. especially J. M. Brydon, promoted the style as a way out of “the architectural chaos of the late Victorian Period.” and “a truly English twentieth-century progressive architecture,” not only English but “potentially Imperial and Modem.”

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — showing Executive Mansion at right

The proposed hospital and corporation was named in memory of John L. Williams’ daughter Charlotte Randolph Williams who drowned on 7 July 1884 at Old Point Comfort. Williams gave $100,000 to the project and he and his three sons served on the Board of Trustees. In November of 1901 the Board of Trustees approved a name change for both the hospital and the corporation to Memorial Hospital.

August 2017

The original plans show the Hospital as a three-story and basement building with an H-shaped plan, with its main entrance on Broad Street. The building was of fireproof construction, with brick and granite walls, steel joists, steel elevators and masonry stairs.

The building had gas and electric lights, and a coal-fired furnace in the sub-basement. The primary north and west elevations are delineated with a rusticated basement and ground floor, two primary floors with a two-story Corinthian order (the central bay on the north elevation has Corinthian pilasters), and a full entablature.

August 2017— surgical amphitheater

The hospital had many open wards, including men’s and women’s surgical and medical wards; a children’s ward; and a gynecological ward. There were several two-bed and four-bed wards, and many private rooms on double-loaded corridors. There were accommodations for the indigent sick, including a “colored ward” in the basement of the west wing. A designated “violent patients’ room” was in the basement. The City Free Dispensary was also in the basement, facing onto Broad Street.

August 2017— surgical amphitheater

Three operating rooms, including a horseshoe-shaped surgical amphitheater with five viewing tiers surrounding a white-tiled operating arena, were located in the third story; an “etherizing” room was also provided. There were rooms provided for hospital staff, including a head nurse’s apartment.

Rooms in the basement were designated for “male help” and “female help;” there were also “help’s dining room” and a “staff dining room.” The basement had a laundry, with a sterilizer and a steam-pressing machine called a “mangle.”

December 2015

There were rooms designated as photographic darkroom X-ray room, kitchen, bakery, and morgue. The building had extensive indoor plumbing for staff and patients.

A three-tiered polygonal sun bay on the rear (south) of the west wing was a prominent feature of the original design. A three-story wooden porch was added to the rear of the east wing some time between 1905 and 1924. The porch was removed during the 1989-1990 rehabilitation.

August 2017

In 1986, the Virginia Department of Transportation acquired the hospital and rehabilitated it for office use. The rehabilitation was planned and carried out in coordination with the Virginia Division of Historic Landmarks, and completed in 1990. (VDHR)


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