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VUU Wins Grant to Preserve Historic Buildings

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Virginia Union University has secured a $120,000 grant from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles to develop a plan for preserving a cluster of late 19th- and early 20th-century buildings on its Richmond campus.

"When you look at Richmond's appreciation for history, these buildings are not as well-covered by the various sources that look at history here," says E.J. Walton, VUU's director of corporate and foundation relations, who helped secure the grant.

In addition to preservation planning, the historically black college will use the money to pay for independent student research into the buildings' histories.

"There isn't an architecture program," Walton says, "but we can use architecture to think about history, art, economics and educational issues."

Walton notes that in the early 1900s, when many of the campus' signature buildings were being constructed, Richmond was in the midst of an economic depression. The state capitol underwent a brick and stucco facelift during that period, while VUU's new additions were built out of gray granite.

"The fact that this is the home of the Confederacy is not lost," Walton says. "These were major statements architecturally that set forth the hope for the freedman, and they are not an insignificant statement. Old City Hall was the only other building that was built in the same period with the same materials."

In the 1950s and '60s, the campus landscape changed dramatically with the construction of the Interstate 95 overpass, which shifted the campus' sense of place from "pastoral to high-flung with the highway above it," Walton says. He hopes the money will help "recapture a sense of majesty and grandeur."

News of the Getty grant came a day before U.S. Sens. John Warner and Jim Webb announced that a bill authorizing $250 million in federal funding for colleges and universities serving minorities passed a key Senate panel. If approved by both houses, the money will go toward technological upgrades, training and campus wiring. S

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