It was painful to read your piece, “Civic War” (Cover Story, March 4). Blessedly, I cannot speak to the internal struggles the writer attempts to recount. Surely, though, with all the challenges we face as a community to preserve our cities and their defining cultural resources, there are more important ways to spend time, energy and ink. And, I have to wonder about the overall accuracy of the piece given the factual problems with the external matters to which I can attest. It is simply not true at all to suggest that the Historic Richmond Foundation has been gone from the scene and silent.
Indeed, whatever the growing pains, HRF has been out there pitching, adding its ever-quiet and sober voice to the question of the fate of the Eighth and Ninth street office buildings (the Murphy Hotel and the Hotel Richmond), West Hospital, and the White House of the Confederacy, to name but a few of those recent challenges. In each of these cases, HRF was at the table, pressing for retention of the landmark, taking a problem-solving posture, working to persuade decision-makers. HRF even put up substantial funds for independent professional studies to get the full issues before those decision-makers in the case of the Eighth and Ninth street buildings and the White House.
It is true that none of these are headline-grabbing strategies. They are nonetheless effective and an essential part of what should be a strong, lively and diverse coalition of organizations, each working in its own way toward the same end: preservation. The stakes are high, and let's remember that in the end it's about substance, not style, and getting the job done for Richmond.
Kathleen S. Kilpatrick
Director, Department of Historic Resources
Members of any family, including Richmond preservationists, have quarrels that look worse when they are aired in public. It's a pity that Style allowed this pot to be stirred by those like the anonymous “preservationist” quoted in this article. It seeks to scandalize rather than illuminate. We expect better fact-checking from the author and the magazine.
Contrary to Jennie Dotts' statement that HRF was “nowhere to be found,” HRF and APVA were both involved with trying to save both the historic Richmond and Murphy Hotel buildings and negotiated with the Department of General Services to halt demolition long enough to analyze the significance of the buildings and the viability of their reuse. APVA and HRF helped fund a study (I was on the study's project team) that showed how these buildings might be preserved. APVA, HRF, A.C.O.R.N. and others worked together on a committee to help shape the rehabilitation of the Richmond Hotel Building and design of the new office building that will one day grace the East Broad Street skyline.
Before and since taking the reins as HRF's executive director, Mary Jane Hogue has been a tireless preservation advocate. Lately I've seen her at Commission of Architectural Review meetings, City Council meetings and preservation workshops. She or her staff can be found wherever local preservation issues crop up. She's actively reached out to A.C.O.R.N. and other preservation groups to keep abreast of and participate in the resolution of current issues. The statement that HRF has been “absent” or “dormant” on the preservation front is ludicrous.
Historic Richmond Foundation, its Council, APVA Preservation Virginia and A.C.O.R.N. have proven their potential to serve the city well. The article attempts to undermine rather than support that potential.
Historic preservation and associated incentive programs like the historic tax credit programs have been the most important catalysts for the revival of the City of Richmond. Let's hope that the response to this article is a renewed effort by the city's preservation groups to jointly advance the cause of preserving and enhancing Richmond's architectural treasures.