40 Westhampton Way
Architect, Ralph Adams Cram
The dorm with the mysterious “Rat Hole”
The University of Richmond’s roots extend back to the mid-nineteenth century and the establishment of Richmond College, an all-male institution. During the early twentieth century, as Richmond College expanded and prepared to relocate to a new campus, college officials began considering the creation of a women’s college. The new campus was located in suburban Richmond and its name, Westhampton, was derived from a nearby real estate development.
In 1914, the women’s college took the same name. Richmond College and Westhampton College combined to become the University of Richmond in 1920. Originally, Westhampton College was housed entirely in the building now known as North Court. The building included dormitory, classroom, administrative, and dining facilities.
Higher education opportunities for women at the University of Richmond extend back to the late nineteenth century. Almost immediately after being appointed Richmond College president in 1895, Frederic W. Boatwright advocated expanding the school to include women students. He had witnessed the level of inequality between men’s and women’s higher education in his time as a professor at the Woman’s College, a junior college in Richmond, and publicly supported quality education for women throughout his career. Boatwright allowed non-matriculating female students to attend classes at Richmond College during the late 1890s and urged the Board of Trustees to allow women to pursue degrees. The Board of Trustees hesitated, as many people found higher education for women to be controversial.
Boatwright, however, was not alone in his opinion of the value of women’s education. In 1903, the Baptist General Association of Virginia adopted a resolution instructing the newly created Baptist Education Commission to begin planning for the establishment of a women’s college. In 1904, the Education Commission conducted a campaign for $250,000 which the Commission would use to establish a college for women and give financial relief to existing Baptist schools. Many schools put in offers, including Rawlings Institute in Charlottesville and Bristol’s campus of Southwest Virginia Institute, but Richmond College’s proposal was the one selected by the Education Commission in 1906.
With the addition of a women’s college, Boatwright saw an opportunity both to expand women’s education and to enhance Richmond College. During planning for the new campus at Westhampton, Boatwright traveled through the Midwest looking for a model college that educated both men and women. In the process, he was exposed to the Gothic Revival architectural style, which would later be adopted for the Westhampton campus.
Gothic Revival style (also referred to as Collegiate Gothic) had its roots in British schools such as Oxford and Cambridge. Of the many colleges Boatwright visited, he favored the suburban campus of Western Reserve University, now Case Western University, in Cleveland, Ohio. He found that the women’s and men’s colleges shared several buildings, such as the library, auditorium, and science laboratories, but each also retained its own buildings and identity as a separate college. In addition to the coeducational campus organization, Boatwright may have been attracted to the Gothic style architecture of the women’s college, which was housed in a large, multi-purpose Gothic building.
Boatwright and the Board of Trustees enlisted prominent architect Ralph Adams Cram of the Boston and New York-based firm Cram, Goodhue, and Ferguson to design the Westhampton campus. After his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism in 1887, Cram asserted that the Gothic style, and its inherent moral truths, had been lost and needed restoring. The Collegiate Gothic style allowed him to correlate the architecture and values of the medieval past to the campus architecture of the twentieth century. Using the Gothic style in his campus designs also allowed Cram to create a unified aesthetic for a collection of buildings that differed in use.
Groundbreaking for the women’s college and Richmond College began in July 1911, and construction of the main building was completed in the summer of 1913. The two schools were separated by Westhampton Lake, which continues to be a prominent landscape feature. The name Westhampton College officially was adopted on March 8, 1914. North Court was constructed in accordance with the architect’s specifications, which included handmade dark red brick with blue, gold, and black tile inlays and the finest quality marble and slate. Substantially constructed with a framework of steel set in concrete, the building boasted floors built of reinforced concrete.
The Tower stood as the dividing line between the residential and academic wings. In the residential wing, the “Blue Room” corridor was the location of reception rooms, rooms for college organizations, and the offices of the Dean of Westhampton College. The dormitory section included the structure around the court, which was turfed with sod removed from the campus. The dining hall and kitchen were in the wing across from the arch. The dining room was English style with vaulted ceilings of dark wood. The balcony which overlooked the dining room was used as a passage for the kitchen workers, who were housed upstairs in what later became known as the “Rat Hole.” The third floors were left unfinished.
Although the intent for a complete campus was demonstrated in Cram’s plans, the building campaign was plagued by lack of funds and resulted in a scaled-down 1914 plan with many buildings reduced in size or eliminated completely. Cram’s seven original buildings at the Westhampton campus nevertheless came to define Collegiate Gothic as a style for the campus architecture as a whole. North Court, completed in the summer of 1913, was the closest approximation of Cram’s monastic cloister ideal. The wings of the building formed a partially enclosed cloister around an English courtyard.
On opening in the fall of 1914, Westhampton College enrolled 82 women: 38 residential and 44 commuting. The building was designed to accommodate 135 students, meaning that enough residential space was available in the college for a number of faculty members to live there as well. The presence of faculty members living in the dormitory helped establish the friendly relationship between students and faculty, an important part of life at Westhampton College. The women’s student body increased steadily, however, and more space soon was needed. The third floor of the building was finished as dormitory rooms, and dormer windows were added.
Women’s sports arrived in 1916 at Westhampton College under the supervision of Dean Mary L. Keller and Fanny G. Crenshaw. Initially, the Tower in North Court was used by students for indoor exercises, although some students claimed they got all the exercise they needed by racing to catch the “old black bus,” a cart drawn by two mules that transported Westhampton College students to the Number 9 streetcar that brought students downtown. No gym was planned for the women. Keller and Crenshaw, after surveying likely spots, decided that the top Tower room would do for calisthenics. When that proved less than satisfactory, the following year they used the barn below the power house.
The United States entered World War I in 1917. The following June, the federal government leased the entire Westhampton campus for use as an evacuation hospital for 13 months. Wounded soldiers who had been transported from France by ship to the naval facility at Norfolk were then sent by train to Richmond. North Court was designated General Hospital #2. Cots lined every room and hallway. Other rooms were used as diet kitchens, store rooms and offices. The parlors and reading rooms were turned into wards. The chapel and old Latin classroom became operating rooms. The dining room and kitchen retained their purposes.
Meanwhile, during the 1918-1919 academic year, Westhampton College’s operations returned to Richmond College’s old campus within the City of Richmond. Students were housed in rented quarters in St. Luke’s Hospital at Harrison and Grace Streets and in residences on Franklin Street and Monumental Avenue. Their classes were held at the campus on Broad and Lombardy streets. Richmond College and Westhampton College returned to the Westhampton campus for the opening of the academic year in the fall of 1919.
In 1920, after an amendment to the charter, the name “University of Richmond” was extended to cover Westhampton College, Richmond College, and the affiliated T.C. Williams School of Law.
The men’s and women’s colleges were not fully integrated, however, for a number of years. For example, the library in Ryland Hall on the men’s campus could be used by first and second year Westhampton College students, but only at certain hours. Thus, a reading room was established in North Court.
At first, the reading room was located in the office of the Dean’s secretary, but by the second year, more space was needed, and it was moved to the third floor of the Tower. Elizabeth Gaines, a 1919 graduate of Westhampton College, was appointed the reading room’s first librarian. Along with academics, Westhampton College students maintained academic, social, and service organizations separately from those at Richmond College.
During the 1930s with the onset of the Great Depression, the student enrollment dropped at Westhampton College. High prices caused students to transition to enrolling as day students. Lowered residential enrollment meant less money for the school to accommodate its students. Funds for student programs and publications also became scarce. The University of Richmond was, however, able to proceed with several construction projects for which funds already were in place, including a third science laboratory building and a gymnasium. Enrollment at Westhampton and Richmond Colleges began to rebound by the late 1930s.
Improved economic circumstances meant enrollment at Westhampton College almost doubled during the war years, and plans for construction of a new women’s dormitory were announced in December 1944. Located south of the original Westhampton College building, this new facility was named South Court upon its completion in 1948.
At that time, the original building assumed its present name, North Court. North Court continued to house many of Westhampton College’s functions, including dormitories, classrooms, offices, a dining hall, and a refectory. Academics at Westhampton College subsequently evolved in keeping with rapidly changing educational trends in the nation at large.
Use of spaces within North Court changed with the times as well. The women’s dining hall remained in use until the early 1980s, when a new central dining hall was constructed that brought together male and female students together for all their daily meals. The former dining hall in North Court continues to be used for special gatherings. Meanwhile, the space that had been the women’s chapel when the building was completed in 1914, and then served as a refectory starting in 1919, was converted into a recital hall, a use that continues today. (VDHR)
A handsome building on a campus filled with them, and a worthy addition to the Richmond historic registry.
On a somewhat related note, Selden Richardson of The Shockoe Examiner wrote a fascinating piece on Dr. Wilmer Amos Hadley in 2017, a surgeon and anesthesiologist at General Hospital #2. It covers one of Richmond’s more sordid tales, the murderous Dr. Hadley’s drowning of his wife Sue, and subsequent trip to the electric chair. Morbid, sad, and well worth reading.
(North Court is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
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La Milpa Food Truck Stolen
If you see the food truck pictured please contact the police
Must-See RVA! — Bellgrade Plantation
A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.
- AKA Belvidere, Bellgrade, Alandale, Allandale, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
- 11500 West Huguenot Road
- Built, 1732, 1824
The centerpiece of one of Chesterfield’s most notorious murders. PG-13!
Belgrade, known in the late nineteenth century as “Belvidere” and renamed “Alandale” in the early part of this century, features an unusual plan and a unique medley of roof types. Situated off Robious Road southwest of Bon Air, the house occupies a large open tract surrounded by rapidly expanding residential and commercial development.
Originally a one- or 1 ½-story hall-parlor house, Belgrade was expanded to its present form in 1824. In that year, Edward Cox conveyed the property to Edward O. Friend, and assessed buildings rose in value from $482 to $1,939. This increase reflects a complete transformation of the original dwelling from a hall-parlor structure to a large dwelling composed of a two-story, side-passage-plan main block flanked by matching 1-story one-room-plan wings.
The hipped gambrel roof covering each of the two wings is unusual, and Belgrade provides the latest recorded example in Virginia of this rare roof type. Another unusual feature is the apparently original 1-story lean-to at the west end of the building. The primary purpose of this eight-foot wide unit appears to have been to house a stair (similar in form and coeval to that in the main block) permitting separate interior and exterior access to the upper chamber of the south wing.
The present interior trim, varying only slightly among the various rooms on both floors, dates entirely to ca. 1824. The mantel in the main block consists of a simple architrave surround capped by a molded shelf with punch-and-dentil band. The mantels in each of the wings are nearly identical, featuring a raised-panel surround capped by a molded shelf. Upstairs mantels date from the same period, and feature plain architrave surrounds with simple molded shelves.
Two coeval staircases serve the house; both are of closed-string, straight-run form with rectangular balusters, square newel with molded cap, and molded rail. The stair in the main block is of unusual configuration: it divides at a narrow landing against the rear wall, where short flights lead respectively to chambers over the main block and north wing. The stair in the lean-to, which makes a turn about three-quarters of the way up, barely allows headroom at the upper landing.
Originally, matching dependencies flanked the house. A one-story, two-room-plan frame kitchen with center chimney stood seventy feet to the south of the house, while an office of similar form stood at an equal distance from the north end of the dwelling. Both were in a deteriorated state in the 1920s and were demolished. The only surviving early outbuilding is a frame gable-roofed smokehouse standing a few yards southwest of the house.
The earliest traced owner of the property was Edward Cox, who in 1824 sold the house and 515 acres to Edward O. Friend for $5,000. Friend, the son of Joseph Friend and grandson of Edward Friend (d. 1806), lived there until his death in 1838, when the property passed to his widow, Matilda E. Burfoot Friend. She remarried and sold the farm two years later to Anthony T. Robiou, who lived there until his death in 1851.
Robious Crossing, where the new Richmond and Danville Railroad line intersected Huguenot Road, was named for the then-current owner of the farm. Robiou is best remembered in Chesterfield County history, however, as the man whose murder precipitated one of the most publicized court trials in nineteenth century Virginia.
The episode began when Robiou filed a divorce suit against his young wife (who was only fourteen at the time of her wedding) charging her with infidelity. [CCO]
Apparently, it wasn’t a “maybe-she-is” situation. Robiou caught them mid-schtupp, still cracking the plaster, and took offense.
John S. Wormley, the girl’s father, along with John Reid, her allegedly adulterous suitor, waylaid Robiou on the road to Black Heath Pits (today’s Robious Road) and gunned him down. [CCO]
Imagine Robiou’s last moments contemplating the unfairness of it all. “My wife Emily cheats on me and I get whacked for complaining?” ‘Course the Wormley family was old and established, so it must have been a matter of honor perhaps for (rightfully) slandering the family name. At least he has a street named for him.
Both men were taken into custody shortly thereafter, and Wormley, a prosperous planter and lawyer, was found guilty at a trial held at Chesterfield Court House in October, 1851. A mistrial was later declared, however, on the grounds that the jurors had been treated to drinks beforehand by the deputy sheriff and county clerk. [CCO]
*hic… innnoshent, yer Honor…
Over a year later, a jury summoned from Richmond and Petersburg because of the local notoriety of the case sentenced Wormley to death. A week later, a crowd of 4,000 persons watched the 42-year-old man hanged at Chesterfield Courthouse. Reid, meanwhile, had been tried and acquitted, and before the hanging married the young widow whose husband he had been accused of murdering. [CCO]
Of course, this all ends happily. Two weeks after her father’s hanging, Mrs. Emily Reid took a tumble down the front steps and perished. Poetic justice.
There are two accounts of how she died. One account is that she fell on a sewing basket and scissors punctured her heart. The other account is that she broke her neck. Since this tragedy, there have been hundreds of stories of sightings of the ghosts of Robiou and his young bride roaming the boxwood gardens behind the home. (Ruth’s Chris)
In 1851, the year of the first trial, Randolph Ammonett purchased the property from the trustees of Robiou’s estate for $2,025. Ammonett lived at Belgrade until his death in 1889. In his will, he directed that “an iron railing about 10 feet square be erected around the graves of myself and my deceased wife, J. J. Ammonett.” This fence still stands in the back yard, although there are no inscribed stones to identify the graves of either Amonett or his wife. [CCO]
Since then the place has been called Belvidere, Alandale, Allandale, and Bellgrade, the nom-de-plume that Ruth’s Chris prefers. Jeff O’Dell calls it Belgrade, and who are we to argue with an architectural historian?
Mary Wingfield Scott would not have approved with Ruth’s Chris’s alterations, but the steak house did end up preserving the original structure, so even if it isn’t on the historic registry, the spirit of the plantation house was preserved.
(Belgrade is part of the Atlas RVA! Project)
- [CCO] Chesterfield County, Early Architecture and Historic Sites Jeffrey M. O’Dell. 1983.
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“Field of Dreams'” Dwier Brown coming to the Diamond for Opening Night; Andruw Jones rescheduled
The actor known as John Kinsella in the classic baseball film will help ring in new Flying Squirrels season; Jones is headed to The Diamond on April 21st.
Actor Dwier Brown, known for his role in the movie “Field of Dreams,” will be a special guest for the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ Opening Night on April 16, the team announced on Friday. Former MLB star Andruw Jones, who was originally announced as an Opening Night guest, has rescheduled his appearance to Tuesday, April 21.
Opening Night with the Flying Squirrels, presented by Virginia Birth Father Registry and Chick-fil-A, will include dueling fireworks to ring in the new season. First pitch between the Flying Squirrels and Bowie Baysox is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. and the ballpark gates open at 5 p.m.
Brown is well-known for his role in the acclaimed baseball film, “Field of Dreams,” in which he portrayed John Kinsella, the father of the film’s main character, Ray Kinsella. The Ohio native also held movie roles in “The Guardian,” “The Cutting Edge” and “Dennis the Menace Strikes Again!” He has also made appearances in television shows, including “ER,” “Firefly” and “House.”
“We look forward to an action-packed first homestand of the 2020 season,” Flying Squirrels VP & COO Todd “Parney” Parnell said. “Having such an iconic character with us on Opening Night will generate great momentum as we strive for our 11th consecutive Opening Night sellout.”
VIP Meet & Greet packages will be available for $40 each beginning Mon., Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. and include access to an exclusive VIP meet & greet with Brown, an all-you-can-eat buffet in the SEGRA Picnic Zone and a Field Level ticket for the Flying Squirrels’ home opener. Packages can be purchased by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or in-person at the Flying Squirrels’ offices at The Diamond. More information is available here.
The Flying Squirrels’ first 10 home openers have all sold out, including franchise-record crowds of 9,845 fans in each of the last two years. Since the franchise’s first season in 2010, the Flying Squirrels have welcomed a special guest to help open the home schedule at The Diamond. Brown joins the list of sports stars and dignitaries to celebrate the start of the new baseball season in Richmond. Previous guests include:
- 2019 – Ryan Klesko
- 2018 – Fred McGriff & Gov. Ralph Northam (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
- 2017 – David Justice (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
- 2016 – Jerome Bettis
- 2015 – Will Wade (caught by Gov. Terry McAuliffe)
- 2014 – Michael Robinson
- 2013 – Javy Lopez & Ryan Kerrigan
- 2012 – Dale Murphy
- 2011 – James Farrior, Brandon Rozzell & Chris Mooney
- 2010 – Gov. Bob McDonnell
VIP Meet & Greet Packages for the appearance by five-time NL All-Star Andruw Jones will also go on sale on Mon., Feb. 24 at 8:30 a.m. Packages cost $50 each an include access to an exclusive VIP meet & greet with Jones, an exclusive Andruw Jones commemorative card, up to two autographs per attendee, an all-you-can-eat buffet in the SEGRA Picnic Zone and a Field Level ticket for the April 21 game. More information is available here.
“Having to move Andruw to Tuesday night gives us an amazing opportunity to celebrate not just Opening Night, but again when Andruw comes on April 21,” Parney said. “The entire first homestand promotional calendar gives us a great opportunity to have our best start in team history.”
Packages can be purchased by phone at 804-359-FUNN (3866) or in person at the Flying Squirrels’ offices at The Diamond.
Fans can also purchase combined VIP Meet & Greet Packages for both Opening Night with Dwier Brown and April 21 with Andruw Jones for $75.Information on group packages for the Flying Squirrels’ home opener on April 16 are available here or by contacting the front office at 804-359-FUNN (3866).