VCU approves removal of on-campus Confederate names, symbols

Harrison House, which houses the Department of African American Studies, will have the "Harrison" name removed after VCU's Board of Visitors voted to remove Confederate commemorations. Photo by Hannah Eason

Eduardo Acevedo, News Editor

The VCU Board of Visitors unanimously approved measures Friday to de-commemorate and rename campus buildings named after members of the Confederacy.

“The symbols of the Confederacy have come to impede our mission to serve all, and that’s why I have recommended we no longer honor those symbols,” university president Michael Rao said in a release.

The board passed a resolution to allow the Department of African American Studies to rename Harrison House, 816 W. Franklin St., where the department’s office is located. The building is named after Fort Harrison, which was used by Confederate forces during the Civil War.

Board members also approved renaming a School of the Arts building after Murry DePillars, a former dean.

Six other VCU locations are up for de-commemoration following the Friday meeting:

McGuire Hall

Located at 1112 E. Clay St., McGuire Hall houses administrative offices, classrooms, laboratories, training facilities and a human science research facility. The hall was named after Hunter H. McGuire, a surgeon in the Confederate army. The board voted to remove the name and all associated mentions and references to McGuire Hall.

Baruch Auditorium

The board passed the removal of the plaque outside the auditorium in the Egyptian Building, 1223 E. Marshall St. The sign commemorates Simon Baruch, a surgeon for the Confederate army.

Ginter House

Near Shafer Street, the Ginter House holds the offices for the provost, academic and faculty affairs, finance administrators, the Office of Planning and Decision Support and the Center for Community Engagement and Impact. Photo by Hannah Eason

The Ginter House at 901 W. Franklin Street is home to the provost’s office, academic and faculty affairs, the Office of Planning and Decision Support and the Center for Community Engagement and Impact. Ginter House was named after Lewis Ginter, a major in the Confederate army. All mentions and commemorations of Ginter will be removed on Monroe Park and MCV campuses.

Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel 

This archived photo shows the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel when it was dedicated in November 1960. Photo courtesy of VCU University Relations

Found on the 17th floor of the West Hospital on MCV campus, the Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapel honors the Confederate leader and Kathryn Wittichen, a former president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Jefferson Davis Memorial Chapel will be de-commemorated, permanently closed and four plaques honoring Davis and Wittichen will be removed from the chapel and the West Hospital.

Tompkins-McCaw Library

Located at 509 N. 12th Street, the library is named in honor of five members of the Tompkins and McCaw families. James McCaw and Sally Tompkins operated Confederate hospitals in Richmond during the Civil War. 

The board voted to remove the name and all associated mentions of Tompkins-McCaw from the library. They also voted on the removal of Confederate plaques and a portrait of John Syng Dorsey Cullen, a surgeon in the Confederacy, from the library.

Wood Memorial Building

The Wood Memorial Building houses VCU’s School of Dentistry at 521 N. 11th St. It’s named after Judson B. Wood, a dentist and private in the Confederate army. Wood’s name will be removed from the Wood Memorial Building, and all associated mentions and references will be removed from VCU’s campuses.

The VCU Committee on Commemorations and Memorials recommended the removal of Confederate names and symbols in July. The committee was established May 2019 to make recommendations on memorials, commemorations and decommemorations to the President.

According to the Board of Visitors agenda, President Michael Rao established the President’s Committee on Confederate Commemoration in August 2017 with a charge “to conduct an inventory and analyze symbols of the Confederacy, slavery, white supremacy, and other items of an exclusionary nature on campuses.”

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