Save Richmond Community Hospital Work Group hosts second rally

George Copeland Jr. | 4/11/2024, 6 p.m.
About four dozen Richmonders gathered last Sunday at the original Community Hospital Building on Overbrook Road for a First Sunday ...

About four dozen Richmonders gathered last Sunday at the original Community Hospital Building on Overbrook Road for a First Sunday “Communion” rally in a continuing effort to save the historic building, which is owned by Virginia Union University.

Two months ago, VUU announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with housing. While VUU officials have since said the building will not be demolished, the building’s status remains unclear. Multiple offers by Historic Richmond, a nonprofit organization focused on preserving and rehabilitating important sites in the city, to provide an independent assessment of the building have also gone unaddressed, according to Cyane Crump, Historic Richmond’s executive director.

The Save Richmond Community Hospital Work Group rally, cofounded by Viola Baskerville and Farid Alan Schintzius, included featured speaker Selden Richardson, the former archivist for Architectural Records at the Library of Virginia. His book, “Built by Blacks,” prominently features VUU and the Frederick Douglass Court neighborhood, which is less than a five-minute walk from the former hospital.

In addition to providing historical context about the hospital, Mr. Richardson described the surrounding neighborhoods as repositories holding “the hopes and dreams and aspirations of generations of Black Richmonders.”

“Think of the joy generated when hundreds, thousands of babies held by proud parents emerged into the sunshine for the first time on these steps,” Mr. Richardson said. “Think of the pride of the professionals, who have been trained for years in medical school, finally had a chance to practice and aid their own people after generations of mistreatment and lack of facilities.”

“This is a conduit for existence,” added John Mitchell, executive director of the Richmond Planet, who was born in the hospital in 1963 and whose family worked there. “People came through here. People ended their existence here.”

“What we’re trying to do is continue to be visible, to keep the issue before the public,” said Mrs. Baskerville, a Virginia lawyer and politician who served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1998 to 2005, and as Secretary of Administration under Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine from 2006 to 2010.

“There were people out here today that weren’t here last month,” she added. “So that tells me the word is going out to the community and people are willing to come forward and share their experiences. We’re thankful.”

The next rally at the hospital is planned for Sunday, May 5.