Backstory and Context
In 1912, Ralph Adams Cram, architect for Princeton and other campuses, came to Virginia to design the University of Richmond’s new campus. Ryland Hall was one of the original buildings on campus, built in the style of collegiate gothic which the University has maintained in almost all of its buildings campus to this day. This style is seen in Ryland Hall with its characteristic towers, buttresses, arched doorways, dark oak paneling, and vaulted ceilings.
Ryland Hall consists of two different buildings that each have their own namesake. The west building is named after Robert Ryland, the first president of Richmond College, who was in office from 1840 to 1866. As one of the first new buildings on campus, it originally housed the offices for the president and treasurer, a faculty conference room, the office for the dean of Richmond College, the student literary society meeting rooms, and classrooms. The fourth floor of Ryland contained just one room and a cupola with a bell that the beloved President Boatwright used to ring to signal the change of classes.
The east half of Ryland Hall was named after the nephew of Robert Ryland, Reverend Dr. Charles H. Ryland. He served as the first college librarian in 1883 at the old city campus, and in an act of preserving his memory, they named the library on the new campus after him. Located on the second floor of the building, the library featured high vaulted ceilings and a spectacular window. This window, with evocation of stained glass, was created using tracery, a method involving pieces of colorful cut glass and lead being poured with concrete.The walls of the library were lined with books that were carefully watched over by the daughter of the Reverend Dr. and the new librarian, Miss Marion Garnett Ryland. Despite the undeniable beauty of the library, it did not take long for her to discover that there was one major shortcoming in the design.
Just a few years after the library was built, Miss Ryland complained that there was nowhere near enough room for all of the books that were coming into their possession. As it was reported in the college newspaper, The Collegian, thousands of books were received by the campus. This put an extreme strain on the library, and it got to the point where they had to stack books several layers deep on shelves and pile them up in classrooms. Librarians pushed for decades for more room, but it was not until 1944 that the new plans were drawn up for the Boatwright Memorial Library,completed in 1955. Where books had formerly been in Ryland, walls were installed and the area was converted into office space for professors.
The life of Ryland Hall continued to adapt as it was renovated in 1975 and again in 1990.4 While the building received a facelift of new carpeting, paint, oak molding, and lighting, as well as new heating, and air conditioning systems, it maintained the integrity of the original architecture laid out by Cram. At this time, the journalism, English, and history departments moved to Ryland. A few years later in 2002, after a student complained about the old, squeaky desks, the university purchased new furniture for Ryland.
While the renovations helped to update the building and preserve its history, the problems were far from over. In 2010, a mold infestation was found in one of the classrooms, costing the University around $10,000. The campus master plan for future improvements has Ryland Hall listed as one of the next buildings to be updated. It will receive its first new roof and windows, along with general updating of the interior and the addition of an elevator.The history of Ryland has not gone unnoticed. In 2013, the campus buildings North Court, Cannon Memorial Chapel and Ryland Hall were all added to the Virginia Landmarks Register. Aged at just over a hundred years, Ryland Hall has stood the test of time and still bears today the names of the original staff of the University and the style of the original architect. As can be seen by the path outside Ryland, which is comprised of bricks from the old city campus, the history of the institution is ingrained in every aspect of campus. It has shaped the University and its guiding principles so that it can be the successful and influential force it is today in higher education.
2 "University History." History of the University of Richmond: Milestones - University of Richmond. Accessed November 2016. http://urhistory.richmond.edu/milestones/index.html.
3 Peple, Edward C., Dr. "Changing Face of Ryland Hall." University of Richmond Magazine, Winter 1975, 7.
4 Norton, Bill. "Ryland Hall Gets Million-dollar Face-lift." The Collegian (University of Richmond), September 6, 1990.
5 Morgan, Will. "Ryland Hall Needs Renovation." The Collegian (University of Richmond), February 7, 2002.
7 "Three UR Buildings Make Virginia Landmarks Register." Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 23, 2012. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://www.richmond.com/news/Virginia/article_4ec4a3b8-0692-596d-b43e-ff7c392ccc27.html.