HJR 747 - Joint Subcommittee to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of
Relocating the Museum and White House of the Confederacy
The Joint Subcommittee
to Examine the Cost and Feasibility of Relocating the Museum and White
House of the Confederacy held its second meeting on August 29, 2005, at
the General Assembly Building in Richmond. The subcommittee heard several
presentations addressing the educational and historical significance of
the White House and Museum of the Confederacy, as well as the impact of
relocation and the feasibility of alleviating certain problems facing
the Museum and White House in its current location.
of Historic Resources
Kathleen Kilpatrick, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic
Resources, spoke as an advocate for the preservation of the White House.
Although sympathetic to the museum's difficulties in its present location
in the Clay Street corridor, Ms. Kilpatrick noted that the situation is
not unique to the museum or to the City of Richmond. In fact, several
historic landmarks in other American cities have faced the challenges
that arise from modern urban development. Examples include the Paul Revere
House in Boston, the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore, the Betsy Ross House
in Philadelphia, the Walt Whitman Birthplace on Long Island, and the Alamo
in San Antonio.
Ms. Kilpatrick also
explained that the White House of the Confederacy is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register. In addition,
the White House is one of 117 Virginia properties to have been designated
by the Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark. Given
the historical significance of the White House, which has stood in its
current location since 1818, Ms. Kilpatrick concluded that the museum
should sort out the problems it faces in its current downtown location
rather than pursuing a relocation that could compromise the historic integrity
of the structure.
Battlefield Park and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site
Cynthia MacLeod, Superintendent of the Richmond National Battlefield Park
and Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, suggested that "the
proposed cure of moving the structure would be a treatment sure to cause
even more harm to the White House of the Confederacy."
First, Ms. MacLeod
cited the National Historic Landmark guidelines: "Because national
significance is embodied in locations and settings as well as in the properties
themselves, moving a property usually destroys the relationships between
the property and its surroundings and usually destroys associations with
historic events and persons." Relocation, Ms. MacLeod concluded,
would jeopardize the structure's designation as a National Historic Landmark.
She further predicted that if its designation were lost, it could not
In addition, Ms.
MacLeod pointed out that the museum's current visitation is comparable
with visitation numbers at the Tredegar visitor center-another of Richmond's
downtown Civil War sites-and concluded that relocation will not guarantee
the financial viability of the Museum and White House.
of Virginia Commonwealth University
Edwin J. Slipek, Professor of architectural history at Virginia Commonwealth
University and teacher of architectural history at the Maggie L. Walker
Governor's School, presented the subcommittee with the possibility of
re-opening East Clay Street to link Court End historical sites with the
Richmond Convention Center. Mr. Slipek envisioned a "world class
historical corridor" linking several of downtown Richmond's historic
sites. Urging a comprehensive approach to the museum's situation, Mr.
Slipek proposed that revitalization of the Clay Street corridor combined
with additional parking facilities and marketing would increase visitation
at the museum and alleviate its financial problems.
Walter R.T. Witschey, Ph.D., Director of the Science Museum of Virginia,
presented a "Vision for the Boulevard" prepared by the American
Society of Landscape Architects, Virginia Chapter, and Museums on the
Boulevard. Specifically, Dr. Witschey focused on the Museum District in
which the Virginia Historical Society, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the
Science Museum of Virginia, and the Children's Museum of Richmond are
located. Although there is little available property near the Science
Museum of Virginia, Dr. Witschey suggested that should the museum relocate,
the Boulevard Museum District could be a good new location in light of
ample parking in the area and the proximity of other museums.
Robert H. Lamb,
Esq. of Wright & Law in Washington, D.C.
Robert H. Lamb, Esq., a member of the law firm of Wright & Law in
Washington, D.C., has several family ties to the Museum and White House
and urged the subcommittee to explore the alternatives to moving the White
House. In particular, Mr. Lamb encouraged the subcommittee to give thoughtful
attention to Mr. Slipek's proposal to revitalize the Clay Street corridor
and create additional parking facilities. Mr. Lamb further noted that
the White House is inextricably linked to the land on which it currently
sits by the momentous events that took place both in the house itself
and the surrounding property.
concluded its meeting by allowing time for public comment. Those who spoke
recognized the historical significance of the site on which the White
House currently sits, but were divided on whether the structure should
remain in that location in light of the problems associated with it. The
Henrico County Historical Society informed the subcommittee that its board
voted to recommend that the White House remain at its current location.
The joint subcommittee
will hold two additional meetings at the General Assembly Building in
Richmond. The third meeting will be on September 26 at 2:00 p.m. in House
Room C. The fourth and final meeting will be held in House Room D on November
21 at 2:00 p.m. in House Room D.
At the September
meeting, the joint subcommittee plans to further address the possibility
of making improvements to the Clay Street corridor and explore the costs
and engineering challenges of moving the White House.
The Hon. R. Lee
Robie Ingram, Bryan
Stogdale, DLS Staff