36 Westhampton Way
Architect, Charles M. Robinson
A masterpiece of Late Gothic Revival nestled away on the UR campus.
Rising from a concrete foundation veneered with concrete incised to look like cut stones, the walls are constructed of steel frame clad with red brick laid in Flemish bond. The entries have original doors of paneled wood with iron detailing. A large rose window highlights the primary façade and Gothic pointed-arch and lancet windows are found on the remaining walls. The window openings on the east and west elevations have stained glass replacement windows with concrete tracery. The front-gabled roof is sheathed with variegated slate tiles.
A rectangular apse at the back of the chapel also has a slate-covered gabled roof. The eaves of the roof are trimmed by brown metal gutters that drain to brown metal downspouts. Rooftop elements are restricted to parapets that mask portions of the roof on the front and back walls of the building. A rich deployment of original stone and molded and cast concrete decorative elements is a character-defining feature of the building. Pinnacles at the east and west ends of the primary façade, window and door surrounds, drip molds, belt courses, and accents on brick buttresses all were constructed using molded concrete.
Concrete quoins of varying sizes are located at the edges of walls and around some windows and doors. Other concrete features include decorative reliefs and sculptural elements in foliate and other patterns above doors and windows and at the corners of walls on all sides of the building. Other concrete features include decorative reliefs and sculptural elements in foliate and other patterns above doors and windows and at the corners of walls on all sides of the building; these typically mimic quatrefoil or other designs found in Gothic tracery.
Quatrefoil ornaments flank the pointed arch. Above the pointed arch, a stone carving that reads “Cannon Memorial” in stylized Gothic lettering spans the entry bay, and is flanked by trumpet-playing angel reliefs. This name block is topped with a gabled parapet that has three foil arch reliefs. To either side of the entry, recessed bays include small windows with stained glass panels and concrete drip molds and quoin surrounds.
On the main block, the primary façade features symmetrical composition, with a centered entry block on the first story, a rose window above the entry, double foil arch and opening in the gable, and a cross on top of the gable. Set within a slightly projecting bay, the rose window has twelve foil arch traceries radiating from the central circle. The stained glass was installed in the rose window during the mid-1980s.
On the west wall, an entry bay projects from the fourth bay, beneath the stained glass window. Accessed via a brick wheelchair ramp, the entry is similar in style and ornamentation to the primary entry on the north façade. Double-leaf, original wood doors are surmounted by a molded concrete surround and pointed arch with a large cinquefoil design. Above the pointed arch, a gabled concrete parapet bears a centered blank shield flanked by leaf ornamentation. At each corner is a relief of a kneeling angel.
The rear wall of the chapel has battered brick buttresses at each corner, each with concrete accents. A sloped, slightly projecting bay topped with concrete incised to look like stone is between the buttresses. A concrete water table extends the length of the wall. Immediately below the water table, at the ground level are two vents and one small window, each with a simple concrete surround. The window appears to be original to the building, while the vents likely were added at a later date to accommodate mechanical systems.
A memorial garden is on the east side of Cannon Chapel. A brick and stone wall encloses the garden, with iron gates placed on the north and south walls. On the west wall, a wood gate leads to the neighboring Wilton Center. The landscaped area features brick and stone walkways, benches, ornamental plantings, and a central fountain. Low wing walls extend from the base of each buttress on the chapel’s east wall. Each wing wall is composed of brick and stone block and is topped with a concrete planter. The memorial garden is intended for the scattering of ashes.
Cannon Memorial Chapel is a nave plan with a center aisle, small side aisles, and an alter area. The narthex and small rooms to either side are contained within the entry block on the north façade. The narthex features original paneled woodwork, historic-period tile flooring, and a plaster ceiling featuring a raised geometric pattern. Double leaf, paneled wood doors lead to the nave. Within the nave and to either side of the narthex doors are single-leaf wood doors. The east door opens to a prayer room, while the west door leads to the chapel guild room.
The interior of the chapel features a soaring, vaulted timber ceiling supported by arch braces. Wood pews flank the aisles. Carpet covers the aisles while the remaining flooring is wood. The space is lit by stained glass windows on all sides. A cast concrete molding runs around the entire interior space just below the bottom edges of the pointed arch windows. The area below the molding has been painted to look like blocks of stone in varying shades of tan. Raised wood panels with molded surrounds are beneath each window and include a name plate with a dedication for each window. Above the molding are white plastered walls.
The theme for the windows is “Let All the Universe Praise Thee, O God.” From north to south, the stained glass windows on the east wall are titled “Praise” (installed 1985), “Law and Justice” (1986), “Commerce and Industry” (1986), “Creation” (1987), “Prophets” (1986), “Incarnation” (1986), and “Redemption” (1986). From north to south on the west wall, the windows are titled “Prayer” (1985), “The Sciences” (1985), “Art and Humanities” (1987), “University Window” (1986), “Hope and Renewal” (1985), “Pentecost” (1986), and “Resurrection” (1985).
In 1936, a Hammond electric organ was installed in the chapel. In 1961, the present pipe organ was constructed. The German organ builder, Rudolph von Beckerath, prepared the drawings, and the University’s music director, Dr. John White, and the University organist, Professor Suzanne Kidd (later, Bunting) guided negotiations. The organ pieces were fabricated in Hamburg, Germany, then shipped to Richmond in 36 crates. Three German workmen from Hamburg installed the instrument in nine weeks under White’s and Bunting’s supervision. Von Beckerath supervised the final installation and voiced the pipes.
The third Beckerath organ in the United States, it has 1,200 pipes (40 ranks) of tin, lead and wood, the largest measuring 16 feet, the shortest being smaller and thinner than a soda straw. A direct connection between each key and each pipe creates the sound. Robert Noehren played the dedicatory organ concert on Feb. 9, 1962. Within a short time the von Beckerath organ became known to organists in Europe and America as one of the finest installations in the country. The organ is included in “A Collection of Noted Organs and Organists of the World,” by H.J. Winterton.
The original conceptual plans for the University of Richmond campus were conceived by Ralph Adams Cram, a Richmond architect and principal of the firm Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson. Cram had extensive experience designing institutional campuses, and believed that the Collegiate Gothic style was most appropriate for college campuses.
The University’s new chapel would be dedicated to Henry Mansfield Cannon, like T. C. Williams, a Richmond tobacco entrepreneur with a soft spot for UR. The architect selected to design it was Richmond’s own Charles M. Robinson, who would have considerable success with the design of public school campuses in Virginia over the course of his career.
For James Madison University in 1908, Robinson developed a comprehensive plan for the campus with a Beaux Arts scheme. He also developed plans for Radford University and Virginia State College in 1913, and also designed eleven buildings for the latter. He would go on to serve as William and Mary’s College Architect from 1921-31, where he would design over 60 buildings in support of his Georgian Revival master plan.
Robinson’s work on Cannon Chapel followed the Collegiate Gothic architectural precedents set by Cram, but it also displayed his own interpretation of the style, with more elaborately embellished and decorative Gothic features than the Cram buildings. (VDHR)
Old buildings need renewal and the chapel has twice received makeovers, in 1976 and 2013.
(In 1976) the acoustics were improved by removing felt covering from the perimeter walls and placing carpet over the tile flooring. The roof, windows, front stairs, and walk received repairs. New lighting, heating, ventilation, and public address systems were installed. The renovation budget was not sufficient to install central air conditioning, but a forced air circulation system was installed. Several pews were removed from the front rows of the chapel, allowing the chancel to be reshaped by building the aforementioned wood platform in their place. At the same time, the choir loft was restructured to have a capacity of 80 people. (VDHR)
The 2013 work was more extensive where parapet stones and pinnacles were removed and repaired, thru-wall flashing and copper caps were installed, and corroded rebar and masonry cracks were addressed. (Conproco)
But that’s good. You give 84 year-old buildings all the TLC they need so that they’ll be around for another 84 years. Cannon Chapel continues to serve a vital mission for the university. Yes, it’s a unique alternate venue for meetings, concerts, and special events. It’s also a place of worship and where ceremonies of faith, like weddings or interments, can be observed, and speaks well to UR’s Baptist roots.
It’s also Mac-Daddy beautiful, so what’s your excuse? Check it out.
(Henry Mansfield Cannon Memorial Chapel is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
RVA Legends — Jaquelin Taylor Row
A look into the history of Richmond places that are no longer a part of our landscape.
1108-1112 Capitol Street
Fie upon the modern indelicacies of attending to business!
This row of three houses was built in 1844-45 by Jaquelin P. Taylor on the site of the modest frame dwelling of Jacob Cohen. Mr. Taylor had come to Richmond as a young man from Orange County, and as a large importer of dry-goods he had built up a considerable fortune. In his obituary notice he is said to have been one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Richmond, whose name was synonymous with the word probity. Executor of William Barret, he was in process of winding up his friend’s affairs when he died suddenly in January, 1872, just after celebrating his seventy-fifth birthday.
The two easternmost houses in the row remained the property of Mr. Taylor’s heirs as late as 1910. He left no children, but his wife’s family, the Richardsons, who during Mr. and Mrs. Taylor’s lifetime had occupied the middle house, later moved into the one at Twelfth and Capitol, which had been the Taylors’ own home. The Misses Jane and Harriet Richardson and their two brothers are remembered as “characters” by all those who knew them. One brother, who was very tall, was often seen in the Capitol Square, feeding the squirrels, with whom he was so gentle that they ate out of his hand without fear.
The Misses Richardson were unadjusted to such modern indelicacies as ladies attending to business, so Judge Beverley Crump, who had charge of their affairs, had to bring them what money they needed in cash every month: going to a bank would have been quite out of the question for them. Mr. Jaquelin P. Taylor II, a great-nephew and namesake of the builder of these houses, recalls that when he came to Richmond as a youth he had to pay regular Sunday visits to the Richardsons and that he put up with the inevitable attendance at church for the sake of the excellent dinner that always followed.
The westernmost house was sold in 1851 to Thomas R. Price, a leading citizen of his day. In 1833 he had founded the well known dry-goods store of Thos. R. Price and Company, of which he was head at the time of his death in 1868. Under various names, Fourqurean and Price, Fourqurean, Price and Temple, etc. this concern survived well into the twentieth century. Mr. Price’s son Edward is remembered by Mr. Munford (and by this writer) as an usher at St. Paul’s over a long period of years. “A man of patrician appearance and of courtly manner, Mr. Price gave distinction to the old Church he so faithfully attended and served.”
Major von Borcke, the German officer on Jeb Stuart’s staff, tells in his memoirs of a visit to the Prices in this house in 1884. He had cared for Channing Price, when the latter was mortally wounded at his side, and ever since the Civil War the family had cherished von Borcke’s sword, which had barely escaped destruction when Mr. Price’s store was burned.
The Price family owned No. 1108 up to 1903, when it was bought by Gilbert K. Pollack, a member of the City Council who built himself an office on Broad Street. In 1911 and 1912 all three houses were sold to the City. During the next twenty-five years a game of battledore and shuttlecock went on between City and State for possession of the site, known (from Ford’s Hotel which had stood to the west of the Taylor houses) as the Ford Lot.
Meanwhile the houses were occupied by various worthy organizations, notably by the Juvenile Court (which had its beginnings there), the Tuberculosis Association, and the Academy of Arts, the last two organizations remaining, respectively, in 1112 and 1108-10 until the buildings were about to be demolished over their heads. It was finally decided that the projected State Library was to occupy the site, and in 1938 they were pulled down.
Together with Linden Row, the Jaquelin Taylor houses were the finest example of the rows of houses built during the ’forties and ’fifties. In some respects these were superior to Linden Row. The porches, with their delicate Corinthian columns, and the fences with pineapple posts like those of the contemporary Norman Stewart and Barret houses were particularly beautiful. Mr. Taylor’s own home, 1112 Capitol, was further adorned with an exquisite iron balcony on the Capitol Street side.
During the demolition, the corner house was found to have a curious and interesting dome above the well of the stair, which was a continuous spiral from the bottom to the top of the house. When the houses were demolished the fence was given to Leigh Street Baptist Church, where it is now installed, and the balcony and front entrances to the Valentine Museum. The balcony is now in the garden of the Museum. [HOR]
As Ms. Scott relates, this block of Capitol Street would change radically in the wake of the new State Library that replaced both Ford’s Hotel and the Jacquelin Taylor Row in 1938. That it is a handsome art deco building in its own right compensates somewhat for the loss of the older houses. Auld lang syne.
Things were changed again in 1997 when the library relocated to its third location at 800 East Broad Street. The old location transformed into the Patrick Henry Executive Office Building, and this end of Capitol Street was filled in to make a driveway for the Commonwealth’s fleet of gubernatorial SUVs.
(Jaquelin Taylor Row is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [HOR] Houses of Old Richmond. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1941.
Must-See RVA! — Scott-Clarke House
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
9 South Fifth Street
Home to an entertaining talker.
The dwelling generally called the Clarke house was built in 1841 by James Scott. The executors of John Allan’s estate had sold Scott the quarter-square that had once been part of the garden of “Moldavia,” and James Scott sold the corner at Cary Street to William Barret and built his own home just south of the Allan house. Scott was one of the tobacconists who gravitated to Fifth Street in the ’forties. Born in Scotland in 1773, he had emigrated to Virginia in 1798, first settling in Manchester, where he was in the tobacco export business. He married the daughter of Archibald Freeland.
For about twenty years he lived in Freeland’s house on what is now Bainbridge Street. Mr. Scott died in 1861. His wife continued until her death in 1876 to live in their Fifth Street house with her daughter Ellen, who had married Captain Maxwell T. Clarke.
Apparently Captain Clarke was a great favorite, and his name is that most identified with the house in the minds of older Richmonders. He had served in both the army and the navy of the Confederacy and for many years was in the leaf tobacco business with his brother-in-law James A. Scott, under the firm name of Scott and Clarke.
In later years he was assistant cashier of R. L. Christian and Co. Mr. Munford describes Captain Clarke as “erect, of patrician appearance, and a most entertaining talker.” An elder of the nearby Second Presbyterian Church, he was buried from there when he died at eighty-one in 1911.
The house had been sold in 1897 and has since passed through many hands. In appearance it is a curious compromise between the problem “to stucco or not to stucco,” which every builder in the ’forties must have faced. The Clarke house was not stuccoed, but was painted a light color, now partly worn off and not unattractive. It has a belt-course as well as window sills and a porch of granite. The rear porch has square pillars, the entrance porch Doric columns.
Inside, the arrangement is similar to that of the Bransford house—a square entrance hall, the stair to the left, and two rooms across the back. The trim is much less elaborate, and the mantels are for the most part of wood.
Today, the old house is leased as office space, a nice retirement gig for a 179-year-old house. Currently, it’s the home of Canal Capital Management.
(Scott-Clarke House is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [HOR] Houses of Old Richmond. Mary Wingfield Scott. 1941.
- [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.
Must-See RVA! is a regular series
appearing on rocket werks – check it out!
GRTC Pulse riders can now experience Richmond history by scanning QR codes at bus stations
Pulse riders are one scan away from experiencing Richmond history thanks to a partnership between the Valentine, GRTC, and VCU.
Thanks to an innovative partnership between the Valentine, GRTC and Virginia Commonwealth University, riders will be able to use QR codes at each of the 14 Pulse stops across the city to access easily-digestible Richmond stories.
Each QR code links riders to a webpage showcasing nearby sites of interest, upcoming events and a brief history of the area, complete with archival photos.
“We’re so happy to be working with two such distinguished Richmond institutions,” GRTC Chief Executive Officer Julie Timm said. “GRTC is dedicated to serving the community, and this is another opportunity to help Richmonders navigate their city.”
The QR codes can be found on the glass map illustrations of each Pulse platform. The Valentine provided research support for the project, developing relevant, accessible content for each stop in a way that riders can easily interact with.
“Explore the Past on the Pulse is about engaging riders and providing opportunities for Richmonders to learn more about the spaces and the neighborhoods they frequent,” said Valentine Director Bill Martin. “This project makes Richmond history more accessible because you don’t have to go track this information down. Instead, the information comes to you, wherever you are.”
Dr. John Kneebone, VCU professor emeritus, was instrumental in developing Explore the Past on the Pulse and worked with graduate students to develop an early iteration of the project.
“This project appealed to me as a teacher because my History graduate students could apply their skills and abilities to coursework with an obvious real-world application,” Dr. Kneebone said. “I tested the project the summer before class and it was very feasible. As a class project, too, it enabled the students to both collaborate and work individually. At semester’s end, the students presented their work to the Valentine and GRTC. Today when I ride the Pulse, I find myself engaged historically with my whereabouts, and now other riders can, too.”
As part of their ongoing class project, VCU students also provided technical and content feedback on Explore the Past on the Pulse.
You too can Explore the Past on the Pulse at any of the 14 Pulse Stops across the city by using your phone to scan the QR codes available at each Pulse station or directly through the GRTC website.