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Northside in the News

RIP Richmond Native and Author Tom Wolfe

May 15, 2018

From the RTD: "In 1991, Richmonder Ken Storey purchased Tom Wolfe's childhood home at 3307 Gloucester Road." [The same neighborhood I spent my the last 20 years living in, but I moved in in 1998].

"A freelance writer and public relations consultant at the time, Storey wrote to the famous novelist about the house, including a current photo of it, when it was painted white with sage-green shutters.

Three months later, much to his surprise, Storey received this typed letter from Wolfe, who recalled in vivid detail what it was like to grow up at 3307 Gloucester Road - the house Wolfe's own father built after Wolfe was born in 1930. "It has always been a wonderful house and a wonderful neighborhood, and it will always have a special place in my heart," Wolfe wrote to Storey."

City Council passes resolution to study impacts of development at Westwood Tract

March 28, 2017

The Richmond City Council voted Monday to request a study of the potential traffic and infrastructure impacts of a long-debated, 300-unit apartment development on the campus of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Ginter Park.

It’s unclear how — if at all — the review might affect the project, which is permitted under the city’s current zoning and does not require any action from the council to proceed.

But dozens of opponents of the project on the so-called Westwood Tract who filled council chambers took it as a win, cheering when the council unanimously approved the measure.

Meanwhile, City Council President Chris Hilbert, who sponsored the measure with Councilwoman Kim Gray, said he doubted the marketability of the proposed development and seemed to encourage the developers to withdraw the paper.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Hilbert said. “While the seminary has the right to do what they’re doing, I will tell you, I would have expected more from an institution of faith.”

Ginter Park Residents Look to City to Stop Westwood Tract

May 04, 2017

Stoney relayed an interaction with the seminary’s president, Brian Blount, in which Blount agreed to halt construction until the Board of Zoning Appeals process and any litigation were over.

But the seminary called Stoney again Wednesday, the mayor said, and couldn’t promise not to build before litigation was over -- “even though they gave me their word that they would stop construction until this was settled.”

Channel 8: Mayor Stoney addresses residents’ construction concerns

May 03, 2017

Neighbors said they were encouraged by Stoney’s presence at their neighborhood meeting Wednesday night.

“We’re concerned that the city has continued to hand out permits and everything even with legal challenges ahead of them,” said resident Sarah Driggs. “We are hoping that the mayor getting involved a little bit more every step of the way will help us with that because he seems to be out here listening.”

In a statement, the seminary tells 8News that construction won’t begin until June 7th and all their permits have been approved by the city.

Neighbors discuss lawsuit over Westwood Tract apartment project

May 03, 2017

Channel 12 NBC:  Mayor Stoney addresses the concerns raised about the Westwood Tract development at the Ginter Park Residents' Association.

Northside residents suing over proposed apartment complex in their neighborhood

April 25, 2017

Residents of Richmond’s Ginter Park and Sherwood Park neighborhoods filed a lawsuit Tuesday in hopes of preventing a 301-unit apartment complex from being built across from the Union Presbyterian Seminary on Brook Road.  ...Campbell told 8News reporter Jonathan Costen he has zoning records that date back to the 1950s that indicate the seminary would never build a multi-family unit. Now, the neighbors say the seminary is going back on its word. ... More than 600 people, including a significant percentage of the homeowners in the Northside neighborhoods surrounding the seminary, have signed an online petition, “Correct the zoning of the Westwood Tract,” protesting the Proposal.

Impact of Federal Subsidies

April 26, 2017

HUD would be inducing a private development that will require transportation and stormwater upgrades - with 100 percent of those costs borne by city taxpayers.

Westwood Tract Is Topic of Debate

March 06, 2017

The Westwood Tract, an historic green space of trails and mature trees interspersed by deteriorating older and historic structures adjacent to Union Presbyterian Seminary, remains at the center of a neighborhood controversy.

A Special Exception Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire’s summer cottage, Westwood, survives another day near new apartment development

May 12, 2017

Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire’s former summer cottage was threatened by the development of apartments on land owned by Union Presbyterian Seminary. McGuire was the personal physician to Andrew “Stonewall” Jackson and one of the founders of the Medical College of Virginia.  

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The Architectural Firm that helped shape Richmond Carneal and Johnston. From UofR to VA Tech, to mansions and apartment buildings they left an indelible mark on the Richmond and VA architecture landscape.

A little over 100 years ago, Richmond was in the midst of an architectural golden age. Mansions were being built on Monument Avenue, the city’s grandest street, and construction crews were busy expanding the city’s suburban limits to the west, in what we now call the Fan and Museum districts, as well as to the north, in developments such as Ginter Park.

A number of significant architects were active, including older ones such as D. Wiley Anderson and Albert F. Huntt, who had designed picturesque houses in the Victorian era, and younger ones such as William Lawrence Bottomley and W. Duncan Lee, who often worked with an eye to more historically correct designs.

Relatively large architectural firms emerged in the city, at a time when architecture was just beginning to be a licensed profession. The firms stayed busy through the 1920s. Then the Great Depression brought everything to a sudden halt.

The economic downturn effectively ended many Richmond architects’ careers. Only a few of the city’s biggest architectural firms survived the Great Depression. Among them was Carneal & Johnston. And while the 1930s were lean years, the firm nonetheless stayed busy.

“Between 1908 and 1950, they designed more than 1,300 buildings in Virginia,” said Mary Harding Sadler, a historical architect and principal of Sadler & Whitehead Architects PLC.

Many of those buildings are architectural standouts, including the Wallerstein House (1912) at 2312 Monument Avenue, the Held House (1911) at 3201 Monument Avenue, the Brooke apartment building (1912) at 2215 Monument Avenue and the Gresham Court apartment building (1909) at 1030 West Franklin Street.

The firm also designed the whimsical, Gothic Revival-inspired Richmond Dairy building (1913) at 201 West Marshall Street, the Art Deco-style Maggie L. Walker High School (1938) at 1000 North Lombardy Street and the Colonial Revival-style headquarters building (1954) the firm designed for Ethyl Corp. near Tredegar Iron Works.

“It’s amazing to think about how prolific they were,” Sadler said. “Their work is very much a part of our city.”

Early years

Neither of Carneal & Johnston’s founders – William Leigh Carneal (1881-1958) and J. M. Ambler Johnston (1885-1974) – were formally trained in architecture, which was not unusual at the turn of the 20th century. (William C. Noland was the first Virginia architect to be licensed – in 1920.)

Carneal, a Richmond native, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Virginia Military Institute. Johnston, a native of Rockbridge County, earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute before earning master’s degrees from VPI and Cornell University.

Like many aspiring architects, Carneal apprenticed for less than two years with a local architect, Claude K. Howell, before opening his own practice in 1906.

“Architectural licensing requirements specify how many years an architect needs to intern with another architect, but those requirements were not formalized in the early 20th century,” Sadler said. “Becoming a professional architect was simply a matter of interning until you had enough experience to launch a business or take up the reins of a design project.”

In his first two years as an architect, Carneal designed a handful of houses in the Fan District, including the ones at 2506 Grove Avenue (1908), 405 Allen Avenue (1908) and 1637 (1907) and 2026 (1908) Grace Street.

Johnston and Carneal shared an office before forming Carneal & Johnston in 1908 with a handshake, Sadler said.

With Carneal as its lead designer, the firm enjoyed early success.

“By 1912, they had several impressive projects around the city,” including winning a bid to design City Hall, Sadler said. (The City Hall project ultimately failed to find funding.)

Much of the firm’s early work is Neoclassical, although they also produced Gothic Revival-style designs.

“Their best work was bold and muscular, and it had a lot of oomph to it,” Sadler said.

In addition to its own designs, Carneal & Johnston served as the associate architect on a number of prominent projects headed by national firms. Among the earliest was the firm’s partnership with Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson, the architects for the new Richmond College at Westhampton (now the University of Richmond).

The firm also worked with Starrett & Van Vleck on the Italian Renaissance Revival-style J.B. Mosby and Co. Dry Goods Store (1916) at 201 West Broad Street (now the Quirk Hotel). (In 1921, Carneal & Johnston drew on the J.B. Mosby store design for its Methodist Publishing House building at the corner of Seventh and East Grace streets. The building is popularly known as the Cokesbury Building.)

Later partnerships included working with Cram & Ferguson on the Carillon war memorial (1926-1932) in Byrd Park and with John Eberson on the Art Deco-style Central National Bank building (1929) at 219 East Broad Street.

Later years and legacy

In 1928, Oscar Pendleton Wright, the brother of architect Marcellus Wright Sr., joined the firm, which changed its name to Carneal, Johnston, and Wright. (It operated under this name until 1945.)

While the firm produced noteworthy single-family residences and apartment buildings, particularly in its early years, the bulk of its later work was academic and commercial.

“They took all the work they could get,” said Miles Cary Johnston Jr., J. M. Ambler Johnston’s grandson and a retired engineer and partner with Carneal & Johnston.

Among the firm’s most significant academic work were its designs for the VPI and VMI campuses.

“Carneal and Johnston took the experience they had as the local architects at UR and dressed the Collegiate Gothic style in Hokie stone to create the Virginia Tech campus we know today,” Sadler said.

Carneal & Johnston’s architectural styles shifted as popular trends dictated, and in the 1920s, the firm designed several buildings in the Art Deco style. Other designs were more stripped down.

Significant designs of Carneal and Johnston’s mature years include St. Joseph’s Villa (1930-1931) and the Virginia Department of Highways Building (1937) at 1401 East Broad Street.

“Some of their work, including buildings they did for dry goods and tobacco companies, was very straightforward and devoid of all ornament,” Sadler said.

Carneal died in 1958, and Johnston, who retired in the 1950s, died in 1974. The firm remained active for several decades, though.

“We did all the rest areas for the Virginia Department of Highways,” Miles Johnston Jr. said. “We also did the original work on the Western Henrico Government Center, as well as the Eastern Henrico Government Center.”

Among the retail projects the firm undertook after its founders retired or died are Azalea Mall (1963, demolished) and Regency Square (1975) in Henrico County, along with Cloverleaf Mall (1972, demolished) in Chesterfield County.

The firm also continued its collegiate design work.

“Under the leadership of James R. Beck, Carneal & Johnston designed the Boatwright Library, the Modlin Fine Arts Building and the Robins Center at UR, along with numerous VPI projects,” Miles Johnston Jr. said.

The firm merged with Ballou Justice & Upton Architects in 1999.

Along with Baskervill & Son and Marcellus Wright, Carneal & Johnston were one of Richmond’s few large firms to survive the Great Depression, and the sheer volume of their work over the course of nearly a century tends to obscure their impact on the city.

“We drive or walk by their buildings every day without realizing how much they shaped Richmond,” Sadler said. “Their landmark buildings define the urban landscape and helped create the texture of our city.”

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