Skip to Main Content

Architectural History - Richmond

University Archives and Manuscript Collections

Drawing of the Allison House (now the VCU President's House), 1894.

Drawing of the Allison House - now the VCU President's House, 1894.


The Monroe Park Campus and its Buildings: The architectural drawings of many of VCU's buildings on the Monroe Park Campus are housed in Special Collections and Archives. The collection includes some late 19th/early 20th century materials but most of the drawings date from the 1970s through today. The department also houses numerous university reports, plans, drawings, photographs, and other materials that help document the architecture and planning of the Monroe Park Campus. These archival records cover the years from the schools' beginnings as the Richmond School of Social Work and Public Health to its incarnation as Richmond Professional Institute (1939-1968) and as VCU.

Late 19th and early 20th century manuscript materials including decorative bill heads and envelopes, pamphlets, correspondence, and other items produced by Richmond builders and residents of W. Franklin Street.


There are a number of manuscript and archival collections that document the architectural history of Richmond (and Virginia) that are housed in Special Collections and Archives.

Those collections include: 

  • The James W. Allison Papers, M 1 - Collection of materials dating primarily from the 1890s and includes architectural drawings and perspectives, correspondence from the architects and other vendors, and other items documenting the building of 910 W. Franklin St., built for James W. Allison. The building is now the VCU President's House. An online collection of digitally scanned correspondence and the transcriptions of those letters is available from VCU Libraries' Digital Collections.
  • African American Church Architecture (Richmond and Hanover County, Virginia) Collection, M 70 - The collection includes photographs, a large collection of color slides, photocopies of newspaper articles, census information, anniversary books, and other publications dealing with black church history and architecture in Richmond  and Hanover County, Virginia. One highlight of the collection is information and images of  portrait stained glass use in local churches.  
  • The Richard Lee Bland Collection of Richmond Memorabilia, M 32 - includes a variety of materials that Bland, a Richmond artist, has gathered, including photographs, architectural drawings, publications, materials on art history in Richmond, and a large amount of Richmond ephemera ranging from menus of local resturants to streetcar tickets, from advertising materials to late 19th and early 20th century bill heads and receipts.  
  • The Elizabeth Scott Bocock Papers, 1928-1985, M 260 - Elizabeth Scott Bocock was largely responsible for setting in motion the city's agenda for historic preservation in the 1960s and 1970s. The collection contains diaries, articles, and scrapbooks; architectural plans; and correspondence, minutes, and other information pertaining to organizations that promote historic preservation, the arts, and conservation in Richmond.
  • Melville C. Branch Papers, M 327 Melville Campbell Branch, Jr. (1913-2008), a native of Richmond, was a national pioneer in city planning. The collection includes correspondence, drawings, photographs, and numerous publications by Branch and others.  The collection is highlighted by Branch’s artwork displayed in scrapbooks, portfolios, and oversized handmade books concerning the General Motors Futurama at the 1939 World’s Fair, the 1941 Baltimore Museum exhibition “The City,” and architectural and urban planning designs for Richmond’s bicentennial celebration in 1937.  
  • The Fan District Association Archives, M 14 - Organized in 1961, the Fan District Association has dedicated itself to the "preservation and restoration of the urban residential area known as the Fan District" in Richmond. The collection includes copies of its "Fanfare" newsletter (1964 through today), minutes, and correspondence (primarily from 1983 through the 1990s), reports, and a 1981 history of the organization, which includes historic information about the Fan District
  • Harland Bartholomew and Associates Archives, M 244Known as the dean of U.S. city planners, Harland Bartholomew (1889-1989) was considered the greatest authority on municipal planning in the mid-twentieth century.  Harland Bartholomew and Associates, organized in 1961, designed city plans for several hundred cities across the U.S. The Richmond office of Harland Bartholomew and Assocaties was established in 1961. It served to provide urban renewal planning services to local governments throughout the East. The collection includes newspaper articles, plans, and other materials on their efforts in Richmond, Hopewell, and Petersburg. Much of the material deals with the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority.
  • Jackson Ward Historic District Photograph Collection, ca. 1978, M 371 - This online collection is a series of photographs documenting Richmond's historic Jackson Ward neighborhood. These photos were taken by John Zehmer as part of a City of Richmond project, and published in 1978 in the book The Jackson Ward Historic District, with text by Robert P. Winthrop, Virginia architect and specialist in the architectural history of Richmond.
  • Making of Virginia Architecture Collection, M 383 - Collection of notes, correspondence, research materials and other items collected by Dr. Charles E. Brownell during the planning, research, and writing of The Making of Virginia Architecture, published in 1992 and co-authored by Brownell, Calder Loth, William M. S. Rasmussen, and Richard Guy Wilson. The book was a companion to a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts exhibition entitled The Making of Virginia Architecture: Drawings and Models, 1719–199, which ran November 10, 1992 to January 3, 1993
  • Brian McRoberts Collection of Drawings of the Virginia State Capitol, 1994-1996, M 386 - Brian P. McRoberts (d. 1995) was an architectural history student at VCU. His work included research and drawings of the reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s design for the great hall of the Virginia State Capitol. McRoberts published his drawings in the first issue of The Classicist (1995). His drawings were used in several publications by Dr. Brownell, including a book titled, The Capital of Virginia—Landmark of American Architecture (2002). McRoberts' drawings and other materials make up the collection.  
  • Museum District - West of the Boulevard Associat ion Archives, M 263 - The collection consists of plans, reports, correspondence, and other materials generated by this Richmond neighborhood association, ranging in date from the 1960s through the 1990s. 
  • Richmond Art Glass Collection, M 66 - The collection consists of various documents, drawings, cartoons, invoices, and notes which relate to the production and evolution of the art glass industry in Richmond, Virginia.  The items in the collection date from the late 19th century to the mid-1990s.
  • Richmond Commission of Architectural Review Collection, 1960s-1980s, M 388 - This large slide collection, now available online, contains more than 7,000 color images of the city of Richmond taken over a period from 1965 to 2000. These images document many of the changes within the city, often showing properties which have since been either renovated or demolished. The images were taken by the city's Planning Department to be used in presentations before the Richmond Commission of Architectural Review, a nine-member board charged with reviewing all exterior changes to structures within the City's Old and Historic Districts.
  • Richmond Comprehensive Planning Slide Collection, 1944, 1960s-1990s, n.d., M 387 - This collection of over 8,000 slides was compiled by the staff of the Planning and Preservation Division of the City of Richmond’s Department of Planning and Development Review. The slide collection functioned as a pre-digital archives of planning imagery used for presentations to the public and community groups; illustration of the Richmond Master and Downtown Plans, as well as neighborhood plan documents; and presentations to the Planning Commission and City Council. The images date primarily from the 1960s to 2000 when the Richmond Master Plan of 2000 was adopted. The bulk of the images are from the 1990s. The images document the changes in numerous Richmond neighborhoods, in the city’s architecture and streetscape, and other various aspects of the built environment. The images will be available online in the next few months.description
  • The Richmond Planning and Design Collaborative Archives, M 315 - This collection is primarily office files and architectural drawings of a local architecture firm whose work included planned communities like Brandermill and River's Bend.  
  • The Richmond Renaissance Archives, 1956-1995, M 303   Drawings, correspondence, reports, and plans of projects dealing with the redevelopment of downtown Richmond (early 1980s through the late 1990s) make up this collection. Richmond Renaissance Inc. was a non-profit, public-private corporation formed in 1981 to foster economic development in downtown Richmond. Its first major project was the 6th Street Marketplace, which opened in 1985. Revitalization of Richmond's historic Jackson Ward neighborhood and improvements to the city's downtown riverfront property were two other major initiatives in which Richmond Renaissance played an active role.
  • Richmond, Virginia Maps and Prints Collection, M 190 - The collection focuses primarily on Richmond and is made up of nearly 300 prints from 19th century periodicals, including Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and over 100 maps as well as other miscellaneous items. Topics range from images of daily life and of African Americans to Richmond architecture and miscellaneous city views. A selection of images from the collection is available in VCU Libraries' Digital Collection.
  • Richmond Wallpaper Collection, M 72 -  The collection contains miscellaneous notes, correspondence and photographs collected by Heather Foster when writing her VCU Art History Department thesis on the history and use of wallpaper in 19th century Richmond. The thesis is housed in the department. The collection also contains examples of wallpaper, linoleum, and newspaper fragments that have been removed from several Richmond houses. Fragments range in date from the late nineteenth-century to the mid-twentieth century.
  •  The Robert W. Stewart Papers, M 242 - Materials in this collection include hundreds of architectural drawings of Richmond area residences and business buildings, slides, photographs, correspondence and other materials collected by Richmond architect and preservationist Robert W. Stewart (1937-1994).
  • Jim Stubbins Collection of U.S. Municipal Building (Court Houses and City Halls) Postcards, M 384 A recent donation of over 2,000 postcards, the bulk of which dates from 1900 to the 1920s, showing examples of municipal buildings and court houses from across the United States.