HJR 747 - Joint Subcommittee to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of
Relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy
July 22, 2005
On July 22, the joint
subcommittee held its first meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the General Assembly
Building. Members are Delegates William R. Janis, R. Steven Landes, R.
Lee Ware, Jr., Ryan T. McDougle, and Franklin P. Hall; Senators Charles
R. Hawkins, Thomas K. Norment, Jr., and Benjamin J. Lambert, III; Mr.
Donald C. Gehring of VCU; Dr. Walter R.T. Witschey, Director of the Science
Museum of Virginia; and S. Waite Rawls, III, Executive Director of the
Museum and White House of the Confederacy. The subcommittee elected Delegate
R. Lee Ware as Chairman and Senator Benjamin Lambert as Vice-chairman.
House Joint Resolution
747 (Janis) charges the joint subcommittee to examine the cost and feasibility
of relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy and such other
related issues as it deems appropriate. The joint resolution notes that
the Museum and White House of the Confederacy serves as a worldwide center
for studying the role of the Confederacy in the American Civil War and
is the preeminent center for the display, study, and preservation of the
history and artifacts of the Confederate States of America. Located in
Richmond at the corner of 12th and Clay streets, the Museum and White
House have increasingly become surrounded by the
campus of the Medical College of Virginia. As VCU prepares to build a
new 14-story hospital immediately to the east of the Museum building,
the Museum is considering whether to remain at its site or to move to
S. Waite Rawls, Executive
Director of the White House and Museum of the Confederacy, presented an
overview of the problems facing the Museum at its current location. The
White House, first occupied in 1812, once stood alone atop a hill in Richmond's
Court End. When Jefferson Davis lived there during the Civil War, the
mansion overlooked the Shockoe Valley, Church Hill, and Capitol Square.
Now, the once prominent location is enclosed by the high-rise buildings
of the Medical Center complex and the magnificent views that once existed
are completely obstructed.
Mr. Rawls said that
development in the area has also detracted from the overall experience
at the Museum as evidenced by common complaints by visitors expressing
difficulty finding the facility, parking their vehicle, and hearing tour
guides over the noise from nearby construction projects and medevac helicopters.
As the Medical College of Virginia campus continues to expand in accordance
with the VCU 2020 master site plan, the location of the museum and White
House will become more inconvenient to visitors.
Mr. Rawls reported
that the museum's visitation has declined from approximately 75,000 per
year in 1993 to the current annual visitation of approximately 55,000.
At the current rate of decline, the Museum will soon require significant
funding from the state to remain in operation.
Mr. Rawls concluded
the presentation by submitting three options for the joint subcommittee
to consider: The Museum and White House could remain at its current location
at the corner of 12th and East Clay streets, the Museum could be relocated
while leaving the White House in its current location, or both the Museum
and the White House could be relocated.
While the ultimate
decision will rest with the Museum's Board of Trustees, the joint subcommittee
will examine the cost and feasibility of the options at its subsequent
Following Mr. Rawl's
presentation, several members of the joint subcommittee and interested
members of the public took a tour of the Museum and the White House.
The joint subcommittee
is charged with completing its meetings by November 30, 2005. The next
meeting is scheduled for August 29 at 2:00 p.m. in the General
The Hon. R. Lee
Robie Ingram, Bryan
Stogdale, DLS Staff