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Richmond Esthetic and Historic Building Survey

Over 1500 digitized survey reports and photographs from a 1965 survey of central Richmond

Project History

In 1964, the Historic Richmond Foundation and the William Byrd Branch of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities undertook a survey of historic buildings in Richmond. The Richmond City Planning Commission assisted in underwriting the cost of the survey. Workers carried out the survey in the spring of 1965 under the direction of Paul S. Dulaney and Carlo Pelliccia of the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture. 

The project confined the inventory to the central part of Richmond, from Boulevard east to Chimborazo Park, and from the James River north to Shockoe Cemetery. The area’s concentration of historic architecture, in addition to the amount of change and demolition going on at the time, prompted this focus.  

The original concept to document the individual buildings of historical and architectural interest—the Historic Building Survey—broadened with the inclusion of the Planning Commission. In addition to solitary structures, a parallel study was made of blocks, street frontages, and urban spaces in terms of aesthetic values—the Esthetic Survey. The latter study sought to analyze the city’s visual assets with the hope that the information would be utilized in future planning decisions. 

Approximately 750 entries were documented, including some outdoor objects such as statuary and fountains. The study relied heavily on the works of Mary Wingfield Scott's books Houses of Old Richmond (1941) and Old Richmond Neighborhoods (1950). Additionally, researchers utilized a card file, now housed at the Valentine, that Scott prepared with information on buildings dating from before the Civil War. The surveyors attempted to expand on the card file’s scholarship, but, as of 1968, it was incomplete. 

The records generated by both surveys were compiled and copies housed by the Valentine and Richmond City Planning Commission. The latter copy has since been transferred to the Library of Virginia. The culmination of this documentation effort was the publication of Paul S. Dulaney's The Architecture of Historic Richmond (1968).