St. Philip's Way
St. Philip's Way is a historical path through Academy Square that connects the 19th-century Egyptian Building with the 21st-century James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Medical Education Center. Along the way, you will learn more about the people, places and events that shaped the former Medical College of Virginia, now Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Medical Center St. Philip's Way honors the students, nurses, health care professionals, hospital staff and others from the St. Philip School of Nursing and the St. Philip Hospital who cared for Richmond's African-American community during the era of segregation.
In 1786, Chevalier Quesnay de Beaurepaire established an academy of arts and sciences at this location by erecting a large wooden building with an elaborate French garden. Two years later, delegates to the Virginia Convention of 1788 met there and ratified the U.S. Constitution. The academy itself was short-lived but the area bounded by Broad, College, Marshall and 12th streets became Academy Square. St. Philip's Way retraces the original pathway through de Beaurepaire's French garden.
Academy Square served as home to several theaters in the first decade oi the 19th century. including the Richmond Theatre. On the evening of Dec. 26, 1811, a fire broke out during e performance claiming the lives of 72 people. Within a month of the tragedy, Richmond organized a committee under the leadership of Chief Justice John Marshall to raise funds for a memorial, which resulted in the construction of Monumental Church designed by Robert Mills. The church has hosted many programs and activities including the inauguration of Robert Blackwell Smith Jr., Ph.D.. as the fourth and ﬁnal president of the Medical College of Virginia.
ln 1844, the forerunner of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine secured its spot on Academy Square with the opening of a new building designed in the Egyptian Revival style. In this facility, Charles Bell Gibson pioneered the use of anesthesia in Virginia, Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard conducted groundbreaking work in physiology, Chris Baker prepared cadavers for dissection, Clarence Darrow spoke of his experiences during the Scopes Trial and Baruj Benacerraf, a future Nobel laureate, learned medicine.
Retreat for the Sick
The Medical College of Virginia invited Annabella Ravenscroft Gibson Jenkins, a self-trained nurse who cared for the sick and wounded during the Civil War, to organize a hospital. With the help of a Lady Board of Managers, Jenkins opened the Retreat for the Sick in March 1877 in the former College Hospital building. The Retreat for the Sick, which was initially staffed by physicians from MCV, provided care to all regardless of race, creed, religion or ability to pay. After five successful years, Jenkins and her Lady Board of Managers were asked to vacate the facility. They relocated their hospital just around the corner at 12th and Marshall streets where it remained until 1920.
Hospitals at MCV
On the eve of the Civil War, the Medical College of Virginia opened a new hospital in Academy Square to serve the Richmond community. Both soldiers and civilians benefited from this modern facility that included gas lights, heat and a surgical amphitheatel Sixty years later, the school expanded its medical service to the community with the opening of the Dooley Hospital, dedicated to the treatment of children, and the St. Philip Hospital for African-American patients.
St. Philip School of Nursing
During the ﬁrst quarter of the 20th century, physicians and hospital directors established nursing training programs or schools to provide staffing for their hospitals. The Medical College of Virginia needed nurses for the St. Philip Hospital when it opened in November 1920 and established a separate school of nursing for African-American women. The Virginia Constitution of 1902 prohibited the education of whites and African- Americans in the same school. The St. Philip School of Nursing prepared and educated nurses from 1920 until its closure in 1962.
Nursing Education Building
When Medical College of Virginia President William T. Sanger, M.D., began his campus expansion in the late 1920s, he set as his highest priority the construction of a nurses' home and dormitory. To Sanger it was important that the "nursing students should be as well housed as we would expect our daughters to be." Within 10 months, Sanger had raised the money for this new facility that was named in honor of Sadie Heath Cabaniss, founder of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing. Cabaniss Hall, later the Nursing Education Building, served as a dormitory, classroom, laboratory and research facility for both nursing students and faculty members for more than 75 years.
The St. Philip's Way includes a nod to antiquity. Students of the health sciences schools are reminded of the Western origins of the health arts when they see the statue of Hippocrates or recite the Hippocratic Oath. The Virginians of Greek Ancestry presented the marble bust of Hippocrates, created by Greek painter and sculptor Menelaos Katafigiotis, to Virginia Commonwealth University in 1985.