Virginia University of Lynchburg

Historical Summary

Virginia University of Lynchburg is the oldest institution of higher education in Lynchburg, Virginia. Originally named the Lynchburg Baptist Seminary when it was charted in 1888, VUL went through two more name changes before it was changed to its current name in December 1996. In 1886, the Virginia Baptist State Convention chose Lynchburg as the location for their seminary college because it was central to the state, already had a large black population, and was served by rail lines, meaning that there would be an educational opportunity for black railroad workers. The university offered African Americans a chance to build their self-reliance and education during the difficult period of Jim Crow laws. Unlike other related institutions, VUL was taught "of the Negroes, by the Negroes and for the Negroes," independent of white control and white funding, showcasing how the school took charge of their education and the apostle of "self-help." The college was first meant to educate ministers but later offered college preparatory classes, collegiate classes, a theological course, and teacher-training classes.

Notable alumni include Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, civil rights leader Vernon Johns, and missionary/political leader John Chilembwe.

General Description

In 2009, the entire campus was designated as a historic district (6.82 acres) to "protect the 3 remaining buildings that have historic and architectural significance from demolition and inappropriate alterations…[to] ensure that future development complements the scale and character…[to] respect the integrity of these historic buildings." In 2018, the campus grounds at 2057 Garfiled Avenue were removed.

Description of Contributing Buildings

Graham Hall

Graham Hall, built in 1917, is the smallest of the three buildings and originally served as the dining hall but is currently used for storage. It is a one-story brick building with a metal-hipped roof with deep eaves that conceal the gutters. A porch supported by Tuscan columns is centered on the facade. The window sills are cast stone and have been painted white to match the windows.

Humbles Hall

Humbles Hall is the largest and most elaborate building on the campus of the Virginia University of Lynchburg. It was designed by Romulus C. Archer, Jr., an African-American architect who studied his craft through the International Correspondence School in Scranton, PA, and Columbia University. Humbles Hall is named in honor of Adolphus Humbles (1845-1926), an African-American Lynchburg native who was one of the school's chief benefactors during the first four decades. He was alleged to be the wealthiest black man in Virginia, and he held the mortgage on Hayes Hall in 1900.

Humbles Hall is a two-story red brick building built in 1920-1921 with a modified flat/hipped roof that is not visible. It has a one-story porch with Ionic columns, and most of the building's trim is white and tan. A brick elevator shaft has been added to the south side of the southeast tower.

The Mary Jane Cachelin Memorial Science and Library Building

The Mary Jane Cachelin Memorial Science and Library Building was built in 1946, completed in stages by a local contractor, and designed by Rev. William H. R. Powell. The rectangular-shaped, almost flat-roof building has brick walls on the lower level and lightweight steel column-and-beam construction on the upper level.

For more information about the VUL Historic District, please visit the DHR's site.

Virginia University Lynchburg Map