The Egyptian Building - the first building for VCU School of Medicine
The formation of a mighty oak from an acorn is an amazing feat. In Court End of downtown Richmond, uniquely designed and situated next to Monumental Church is the Egyptian Building, the original structure created for the VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) School of Medicine (formerly known as the Medical College of Virginia or MCV). From this building has grown one of the nation’s top medical schools, which the City of Richmond has watched develop in an equally astounding way as the acorn for the past 170 years.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has long been considered the ideal location for higher education in America. With its location in the central part of the East Coast and its vast resources within all points, many prominent citizens have worked hard to develop such institutions on her grounds. As Mr. Jefferson's University and the College of William and Mary were founded, development of more schools continued. Even the French philosopher, Chevalier Quesnay de Beaurepaire, an associate of Thomas Jefferson, had sought to create the "Academy of the United States of America" in a section of Richmond he'd called "Academy Square". His strategy was supported by many notable Virginians and statesmen including Benjamin Franklin. However, the French Revolution in the late 1700s halted his quest. By 1837, however, as medical students continued to leave the Commonwealth for schools in New England and abroad, several Virginian physicians worked together to found a medical school in Virginia in order to entice fellow Virginians to remain in the South for study. In 1838, their endeavors paid off as Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville endorsed the Richmond Department of Medicine. Classes were subsequently held in various places in Richmond.
While holding classes in a renovated hotel in Richmond and various other facilities, the department understood the need of a dedicated location. Thomas S. Stewart, a renowned Philadelphia architect who had also designed St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Grace Street, was chosen to create the project. Classes were moved to the school’s new building in 1844. By 1846, the building was fully completed and became the headquarters for all of the medical department's educational and clinical needs. By 1860, after conflict between the medical faculty and the trustees of Hampden-Sydney College, the facilities had been transferred to the Commonwealth of Virginia. It then became known as the Medical College of Virginia, and by that time, a state educational institution.
Prior to its formal name, the Egyptian Building, in 1927, it was known as the College Building and later the Old College Building, It was also then renovated to incorporate further Egyptian detail to the interior. Stewart’s choice of Egyptian Revival design for the building was lauded as it paid homage to the pioneers of modern medicine from that era. According to Samuel Mordecai, a renowned Richmond historian, it is believed that the site Quesnay had chosen to found a large institution for the country is the same site upon which the Egyptian Building now stands.
The Egyptian Building has been used continuously by most departments of VCU over the years. From this historic building for medical education in a small Southern city has risen a dynamic contributor to medical science and research in the world.
Its' unique architecture and use have also awarded it a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
Article reposted by permission: Tonya Rice, examiner.com
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