Mar 26, 2024 - News

Richmond residents are fighting to save a historic Black hospital

A black-and-white photo of nurses inside a hospital assisting a doctor in surgery.

Nurses assist a doctor at Richmond Community Hospital in 1907. Photo: Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The uncertain future of the original Richmond Community Hospital is riling up controversy.

Why it matters: The Northside building is cemented in the city's history as its first Black-owned hospital, created to treat Black patients when other medical institutions refused to during segregation.

The big picture: Virginia Union University has a $40 million plan to develop up to 200 market-rate housing units on the land where the hospital — deemed unsalvageable by VUU officials last month — stands.

  • Residents fear that means demolition, and have begun organizing to save the hospital to protect its legacy.
  • It's been left vacant since 1980, when the hospital moved to its location in Church Hill and ownership fell back to VUU.

The latest: In a community meeting last week, Vice President Franklin Patterson said VUU wants to "repurpose," not demolish, the hospital, WRIC reported.

  • He didn't publicly commit to preserving the building, wrote WRIC, leaving residents — some of whom were born and treated in that hospital — with more questions.
  • State delegates, city councilors and historic preservation organizations have also joined the call to rescue the building.

The intrigue: VUU officials have pointed to Northside's need for more affordable housing.

  • Those who oppose demolition believe the university can make the hospital part of the project as a museum.

What's next: Monthly community gatherings will take place at the hospital site to honor the history and discuss its future.

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