As plans to demolish 115-year-old Richmond church come to life, fight to save it resumes too

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A plan to demolish a historic church in Richmond is facing a backlash. According to an application filed in September, the owners of the famous Jefferson Hotel are planning to demolish the hotel’s neighbor, the 115-year-old Second Baptist Church.

The Second Baptist Church has lived on the corner of West Franklin and South Adams Streets since 1906. However, it has not been an active church for some time.

“I understand it was used for storage,” said Cyane Crump, executive director of Historic Richmond, a local nonprofit focused on the revitalization and preservation of historic Richmond neighborhoods.

According to demand, Historic Hotels of Richmond plans to demolish it and develop the area.

“There are so many opportunities for this building to be alive and actively used in the future,” Crump said.

She called it one of the most beautiful pieces of historic architecture in the city. The church sanctuary was designed by William C. Noland de Noland and Baskervill, one of Richmond’s prominent architects and founder of the company which is now known as Baskervill, according to Richmond Historic Website. The historic building of the Sanctuary of the Second Baptist is a monumental neoclassical temple with a columned portico. The nonprofit said it was considered the best design of its kind in Richmond.

This is not the first time that the organization has toured the block. Crump said about 30 years ago, Historic Richmond fought a plan to demolish the church – and ultimately won.

“We still hear from a lot of these people today,” Crump said. We hear from many supporters who care a lot about the structure and would like to see it rehabilitated. “

Public records show the owners of the Jeffersonian asked for the church to be demolished in September. As it is in an old and historic neighborhood, the dismantling of the building requires the approval of another commission, the Commission of Architectural Review. According to the city’s planning director, Kevin Vonck, the owner has yet to apply for this approval.

Crump says demolishing it would be a big loss.

“This area is a perfect example of how historic preservation has helped bring people back to downtown,” she told 8News Wednesday.

Vonck said the application will remain “on hold” until Historic Hotels of Richmond successfully completes the full approval process. In this case, the city code states that the owner must show that there is no workable alternative to the demolition of the church.

8News did not receive a response from the owners on Wednesday.

Crump said the nonprofit had no “preconceptions” of how the church should be tailored. According to their online post, the old adaptive reuse plans considered for the property included a fitness center, swimming pool, offices and housing.

“Similar historic structures have been reused for retail stores, restaurants and even a food hall,” the post wrote. “Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits have been proven to incentivize revitalization and economic development in historic neighborhoods and could be used to help fund a project. With or without the financial assistance of the tax credits, we can see the renovated exterior of Second Baptist with a number of amenities to enhance the hotel’s five star rating and enhance the visitor experience in Richmond.

Jerry B. Hatch