VCU Libraries Gallery

City Complex & Urban Renewal

The United States Congress passed the Housing Act of 1949, which appropriated federal funds for “slum clearance” and public housing. Subsequent legislation provided support for city planning offices, comprehensive city planning, and constructing public facilities, including hospitals. The Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and the City of Richmond took advantage of these opportunities in the 1950s and 1960s. The MCV aerial photographs document changes within Richmond at a time when concerns about “blight” and urban renewal dominated civil discourse. 

In 1946, the Richmond City Planning Commission released a master plan prepared by Harland Bartholomew and Associates. MCV provided input and was protected with the initial recommendations for the various highways bisecting the city. Today’s Interstate 95, 64, Downtown Expressway, and Route 288 all had their genesis in this report.

When work finally began on the new turnpike that would become Interstate 95, the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike Authority required 12 acres of MCV’s landholdings to complete the high-speed highway around the college. The plan also proposed a city civic center. Municipal leaders and planners selected sectors of the downtown area adjacent to MCV for the proposed center. These sectors, with higher percentages of Black residents, were illustrated by maps in the 1946 plan. MCV had no objection to this urban renewal and embarked on a number of projects of their own in the Old Navy Hill neighborhood in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Health Sciences Library’s collection of aerial images documents the changing landscape in this time frame.