University History

Ryland Hall

Ryland Hall

Site: Southeast corner of Stern Plaza, across from Weinstein Hall
Cornerstone: June 10, 1913
Architect: Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson; Carneal & Johnston (local supervising architects)
Size: 32,151 square feet
Renovation: 1974, 1990

Ryland Hall, one of the first buildings constructed on the Westhampton campus in 1914, was named for Robert Ryland and for Charles H. Ryland. Robert Ryland was the first president of Richmond College serving in that position from 1840 to 1866. Charles H. Ryland was Robert Ryland’s nephew, during his association with Richmond College he served as a trustee, treasurer, and librarian of Richmond College. Charles Ryland was the father of Garnett Ryland, a professor of chemistry at Richmond College and the secretary-treasurer of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society.

Ralph Adams Cram of the Boston firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson was hired by President Frederic W. Boatwright to erect the first buildings on the Westhampton campus. Cram was well a known architect and a proponent of the Collegiate Gothic style.

In addition to Richmond College and Westhampton College, Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson were commissioned to continue work on the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and to design buildings for Princeton University, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Williams College. Ralph Adams Cram was later appointed Supervising Architect at Bryn Mawr College from 1924 to 1934. Bryn Mawr’s campus is known for its Collegiate Gothic architecture. am contracted with the Richmond firm of Carneal and Johnston to be Cram’s local representatives to ensure that plans were being carried out correctly. Later, Carneal and Johnston became UR’s official architects and designed many of the campus buildings until the 1970s.

The cornerstone for Ryland Hall was laid on June 10, 1913 by Richmond Lodge No. 10 of the Masons. Ralph Adams Cram spoke at the ceremony, stating that the idea was “to abandon all that is ephemeral and time-saving in architecture and go back to the perfect style that was developed by our own kin in the old home over-seas, to express just these high and eternal ideals of education that were so perfectly calculated to breed high character, and did breed it, as history clearly shows.” The building was made of brick and cast stone. Buttresses provided support for the vaulted ceilings of the hallways.

When first built, Robert Ryland Hall housed the administrative offices of Richmond College, and Charles H. Ryland Hall housed the library. In August 1914, one week before the college moved to the new Westhampton campus, librarian Charles H. Ryland died. The new library was subsequently named after him, and his position as librarian was taken on by his daughter, Marion Garnett Ryland. She died in 1927. In 1955, the library moved to the new Boatwright Memorial Library building.

Originally, the second floor of Robert Ryland Hall housed offices for the president and the treasurer, classrooms, and a room for faculty meetings and conferences. On the third floor were more classrooms and the Richmond College dean’s office. The fourth floor had meeting rooms for the student literary societies, the Philologian Literary Society and the Mu Sigma Rho Literary Society. From President Boatwright’s office, he could pull a rope that rang the bell in the tower above. The shaft for the bell tower can still be seen today in closets off the fourth floor classroom and the fifth floor computer lab.

Charles H. Ryland Hall consisted of the library, which was the third floor of the western wing of the building. The second floor cloister contained classrooms. The library was one large room with a vaulted ceiling. The ceiling and the walls were dark oak. This large space is now divided into smaller offices for the English department. On both sides off the central aisle were reading alcoves. In 1914, there were 386 students, and more than half of them could be seated in the library at the same time. The library contained about 20,000 volumes, which included the law school’s books. During World War I, the university returned with its library to the downtown campus. The federal government used the Westhampton campus as a hospital facility from June 1918 until June 1919. When the institution moved back to the Westhampton campus, the law school remained in the Columbia building downtown with its library. By 1927, only thirteen years after it had opened, the college had outgrown the library space in Ryland Hall. The library was filled with shelving for the books. Classrooms on the second floor became a reading room and space for more bookshelves. The literary societies were moved out of their fourth floor meeting rooms, which were used to house more stacks. Eventually, the library staff had to shelve the books two-deep to accommodate the growing collection. In 1955, Boatwright Memorial Library opened, relieving cramped conditions in Charles H. Ryland Hall.

In the summer of 1990, Ryland Hall was renovated, which included removing paint to reveal the original faux-stone, replacing much of the original oak woodwork that had been removed in the 1970s, repairing the roof and outside masonry, installing dropped ceilings, upgrading heating and cooling systems, restoring windows, and installing new lighting, paint, and carpet. Today Ryland Hall contains the English and history departments.

Sources:
Alley, Reuben E. History of the University of Richmond, 1830-1971
UR website
VBHS building file
Reports from the Committee on New Buildings, 1914 (VBHS)
Stuart Wheeler