Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2005

HJR 747 - Joint Subcommittee to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of Relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy

September 26, 2005

The Joint Subcommittee to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of Relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy held its third meeting on September 26, 2005, at the General Assembly Building in Richmond. The subcommittee heard several presentations addressing the cost and feasibility of moving the White House structure and relocating the museum.


Virginia Commonwealth University
Donald C. Gehring, Vice-President for Government Relations and Health Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University and the VCU Health System, spoke to the subcommittee about VCU's relationship with the museum and how that relationship has developed during their years as neighbors.

Mr. Gehring first noted that the VCU Health System provides financial support to the museum. Until the year 2100, the Health System has agreed to provide steam and parking to the museum. Currently, these services are valued at approximately $79,000 per year. The VCU Health System has also agreed to pay the museum up to $100,000 per year during the construction phase of the VCU Critical Care Hospital project (January 3, 2005 to December 13, 2007). The first payment of $25,000 was made to the museum in June 2005.

Mr. Gehring also noted several derivative benefits to the museum from the VCU Health System in general and from construction of the new VCU Critical Care Hospital in particular. Mr. Gehring suggested that VCU's presence in the area increases security along the Clay Street corridor and provides visitorship to the museum from patients' families and friends. Moreover, a $900,000 post-construction budget will likely allow for improvements to Clay Street and adjoining sidewalks, increased lighting and landscaping, and enhanced visitor access to the museum complex.

Expert House Movers, Inc. and DJG, Inc.
Jim Matyko of Expert House Movers, Inc. in Virginia Beach and Daniel DeYoung of DJG, Inc. in Williamsburg, presented many of the details involved in moving the White House structure. To prepare for the move, the front entry, east balcony, and rear portico of the house must be removed. The structure would then be lifted approximately six feet and 40 dollies would be installed to support the structural load. After securing the house on a mobile foundation, it would be transported to its new destination in one piece.

Assuming that the White House were moved from its current location to an area behind the Science Museum of Virginia, the movers projected that it would take approximately two weeks to transport the house to its new location. Approximately 60 light poles and traffic poles, three sets of power lines, and several trees obstructing the route would need to be moved. Once the White House arrives at its new location, a new foundation would be constructed at the site; a new basement floor slab would be installed; the front entry, east balcony, and rear portico would be reconstructed; and landscaping and finishing touches to the internal structure would be completed. The total cost estimate of the move is $4,765,000.

House Appropriations Committee
Paul Van Lenten, Legislative Fiscal Analyst for the House Appropriations Committee, presented the subcommittee with an overview of nonstate agency grants and methods for seeking nonstate agency appropriations. After outlining the statutory requirements for the issuance of nonstate agency grants found in the Code of Virginia and the Appropriation Act, Mr. Van Lenten noted that $34.1 million has been appropriated for nonstate agencies for fiscal year 2006, of which $25.6 million is allocated for capital projects and $8.6 million will be used for operating grants. Should the subcommittee decide to seek an appropriation for the museum it could do so by either requesting that funds be included in the Governor's introduced budget or by submission of a budget amendment by a General Assembly member.

Museum of the Confederacy
Waite Rawles, Executive Director of The Museum of the Confederacy, presented the subcommittee with a summary of the financial and operating forecasts of the Museum of the Confederacy. When the museum's audited figures are completed, they are expected to show a loss of over $600,000 for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2005.

Mr. Rawles explained that the museum faces three options: keep both the museum and the White House at their current site, build a new museum at another location but leave the White House on site, or build a new museum at another location and relocate the White House at that location.
Turning to the first option, Mr. Rawles projected that the number of visitors will continue to decline markedly, putting further financial pressures on the institution and casting doubt on its survivability. The forecast for keeping both the museum and White House in place is an annual deficit of over $750,000.

Should the museum decide to exercise option 2, building a new museum at another location but leaving the White House on site, visitation at the White House is expected to decline significantly and synergies between the museum and the White House will be reduced. However, more space would be available for the museum to expand and the creation of an on-site Center for Civil War Studies would be possible. This option would incur the highest level of future operating expenses in the long run and is forecasted to produce an annual deficit of over $800,000.

If both the White House and museum were moved to another site, Mr. Rawles predicts that they could obtain financial self-sufficiency. If this option is chosen, the White House would leave its original location and would lose its National Historic Landmark designation. However, visitation is expected to increase to as much as 90,000 people per year and access to the museum would be greatly facilitated. In addition, a new museum building would allow for enhanced program delivery and exhibit space. Although significant costs would be associated with building a new museum building, additional revenues are projected due to the expansion of educational and outreach programs.

Office of the Mayor of Richmond
Dr. Walter R.T. Witschey, Director of the Science Museum of Virginia, spoke to the subcommittee as a designee of Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder. Dr. Witschey told the subcommittee that there is no available city property near the museum for its use. He also indicated that the city is in discussions with VCU regarding the possibility of providing parking for the museum at a garage located at 10th and Broad streets. The current site of the Public Safety Building is also a possible option for creating a parking facility.

The City of Richmond has a signage program for cultural attractions in which the Museum of the Confederacy participates. Dr. Witschey noted that additions and revisions to the city's signage are continual and improvements in signage will be forthcoming.

Dr. Witschey explained that the city's position on a possible relocation of the Museum and White House of the Confederacy is consistent with the Richmond Downtown Master Plan as adopted by the Richmond City Planning Commission and approved by the Richmond City Council in 2004.

The goal of the Master Plan for historic resources is to facilitate the preservation, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse of the valuable downtown architectural and urban heritage. In addition, the plan seeks to implement a comprehensive on- and off-street parking management plan and to fully implement a unified way-finding system, including gateway, parking, and attraction signage. The 1997 Master Plan recommended that Clay Street be converted to two-way traffic and the city continues to support the reopening of Clay Street as well as the creation of a Court End Historic District. The city's policy relating to historic districts promotes the stabilization and rehabilitation of such districts and discourages demolition.

City of Richmond Commission of Architectural Review
Juanita Parry, Chairman of the City of Richmond Commission of Architectural Review, spoke to the subcommittee about the Commission's role in approving the relocation of structures located within a City Old and Historic District. According to the Richmond Old and Historic Districts Handbook and Design Review Guidelines, "[t]he relocation of buildings or structures within a City Old and Historic District is subject to approval by the Commission of Architectural Review."

Ms. Parry explained that the White House of the Confederacy is located within a City Old and Historic District and that the relocation of the structure would therefore be subject to the Commission's review.

In reviewing requests for relocation, the Commission must consider four criteria: whether the proposed relocation would have a detrimental effect on structural soundness; whether the proposed relocation would have a detrimental effect on other historic sites, buildings, or structures in an Old and Historic District; whether the new site provides surroundings compatible with the architectural character of the relocated building or structure; and whether the new site is located within a City Old and Historic District.


The subcommittee will hold its final meeting on November 21, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. in Richmond.

The Hon. R. Lee Ware

For information, contact:
Robie Ingram and Bryan Stogdale
DLS Staff


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