Behind the Scenes at UR

Behind the Scenes at UR

March 16, 2015
Designation of Ryland Hall as an historic landmark

Written by Marshall Ervine

In 1914, Richmond College moved from its Grace and Lombardy Streets location to the site of an abandoned amusement park at the end of a trolley line. With the vision and leadership of then-President Dr. Frederic Boatwright, the University of Richmond’s Westhampton campus has experienced a century of growth and has developed into an outstanding university with an international reputation for excellence.

On October 18, 2104, as part of the Westhampton Campus centennial celebration, UR President Dr. Ed Ayers unveiled a plaque on Ryland Hall designating its placement on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historical Places. A tour of the building for members of the UR Dunlora Society and the Charter Associates followed the ceremony. 

Ryland Hall, named for Dr. Robert Ryland and his nephew Charles Ryland, was designed by noted architect Ralph Adams Cram, and is one of the original buildings constructed on campus.  Dr. Robert Ryland was the first president of Richmond College (1840-1866) and Charles Ryland served as trustee, treasurer, and librarian of the college.

Ryland Hall is an excellent example of the Collegiate Gothic style popularized by Cram. It is composed of two parallel wings with a connecting loggia, has the original leaded glass windows with Gothic tracery, decorative concrete sculptural elements, and brick buttresses. The Robert Ryland wing originally contained administrative offices and classrooms, and the Charles Ryland wing contained the original university library. The building maintains a high level of integrity of Cram’s original design, and today is home to the history and English departments. 

Some Ryland Hall trivia:

  • The cornerstone was laid on June 10, 1913, and Ralph Adams Cram spoke at the ceremony.
  • The cupola atop the fourth floor tower contained a bell with a rope hanging down through a series of closets to the President’s office on ground level. Dr. Boatwright would ring the bell to signify class changes.
  • The gargoyles on the tower are in the form of owls, pelicans, and men’s faces including Cram’s.
  • The bricks in the front walkway originally were from walkways at the Grace and Lombardy campus.
  • The law school was on the first floor of the Charles Ryland wing, but in 1918 it moved back to the downtown campus. During World War I, the Army leased the campus for use as a debarkation hospital. The law school remained at the downtown campus until 1954.
  • It is said that the original ivy on the walls was planted from slips brought from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.