VCU Libraries Gallery

Interstate Highways

In 1955, the Virginia General Assembly created the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike Authority to sell revenue bonds funding the construction of a modern highway between Richmond and Petersburg. This highway, conceived in the 1946 city master plan, opened on July 1, 1958, to great fanfare.

A month after its opening, the turnpike was incorporated into the new Interstate 95. The thirty-mile toll road helped to alleviate congestion on both U.S. Routes 1 and 301 but did so with devastating effects on Jackson Ward and Navy Hill. Entire blocks and sections of these neighborhoods were razed, including over 1,000 homes, a number of them brick with wrought iron fences dating from the nineteenth century. The turnpike cut Jackson Ward in half and blocked or divided 31 streets. It is no coincidence that city planners and turnpike officials selected what they considered “blighted” areas or those with high concentrations of Black Richmonders for the highway’s path.  

While MCV surrendered 12 acres of its property to the Turnpike Authority, it did not lose any buildings or corresponding property in use. The highway basically followed the path of the old Bacon’s Quarter Branch, a physical feature that had demarcated the eastern boundary of the campus for many years. The turnpike once again made Broad Street the gateway to MCV. It brought many interstate travelers to the school to visit local tourist attractions or, in unfortunate cases, to seek medical care from the institution’s hospitals.