Backstory and Context
Since 1925, the Westhampton Deanery, now also known as the Westhampton Center, has been a symbol of Westhampton College. The Deanery itself has embodied the identity of the women’s college and the traditions that come with it. As the University of Richmond turned to a coordinate-college system, this single building became the center for the women at the University.
The Deanery was built in 1925 as the private home for Dean Keller, the first dean of Westhampton College. Dean Keller opted for large rooms on the first floor for entertaining guests and left the upstairs for her own. The building was owned by Dean Keller until she passed away in her home in 1964. For a while before the Dean’s death, the fate of the Deanery was uncertain. Due to conflict between Dean Keller and President Frederic, Keller, for a while, left the building, in the center of Westhampton College, to her alma mater, Goucher College. This blatant statement against Boatwright was in response to Keller’s disappointment with how the president handled gender issues and equality. Keller believed the women of Westhampton College deserved the same treatment as the men of Richmond College. The Deanery was ultimately left to the University of Richmond provided that it be under the care of the alumnae of Westhampton College.
In 1965, one year after Dean Keller’s passing, the first round of renovations of the Deanery was completed under Dean Gehring. At this point, the house was brought up to date and refurbished. In 1974 the Deanery was brought into discussion again. When a shortage of housing arose, seven Westhampton College students moved in the Dean’s old home. For these students the Deanery was the perfect transition between dorm life and living in an apartment. Living in the Deanery taught the students how to cook, complete chores, and deal successfully with others. Unfortunately the Deanery’s future was in question at the time. The Deanery stood in a wooded area behind the Fine Arts Center in an area near where the new science building was planned. The Deanery was saved by alumnae exercising their rights to the building as outlined in Dean Keller’s will.
In 1980, the next round of renovations were completed. Few interior changes were made, but an external brick addition as well as landscaping for the gardens were added. This was paid in part by money left in Keller’s will, but also by the alumnae. The Deanery at this time housed alumnae affairs on the first floor and the dean and housing coordinator on the second floor. Both Jane Thorpe, the director of Westhampton College alumnae affairs at the time, and Dean Bennett praised the location and feel of the Deanery. Thorpe described the building as a “classic English cottage and a definite asset to the campus”. Another small external change to the building was the conversion of the garage into a guest house in 1984. This renovation was paid for by Thalmeier (WC ‘22) and the Class of 1934. The small guest house contains one room and one bath with furniture from Keller Hall.
The largest addition of the Westhampton Deanery was drawn up in 2004 as the Gottwald Science Building was being completed. The addition was to include a new meeting and study space that would stay open past midnight, a small kitchen, and a new upstairs hallway and covered walkway on the first floor. The idea was to create a similar space to the men’s space, Whitehurst. The addition would also allow the college to provide more support for sexual assault and eating disorders. A women’s resource coordinator and director would be placed in this building, and would provide similar resources to the men of Richmond College. All of these additions were estimated to cost $3 million with hopes that ground could be broken as early as June 2006.
Support for this construction was high in the alumnae and current students. With the keeping of the original style in the addition, and adding a safe space for the women, many believed that the addition would help bring back the identity of Westhampton College. Dean Juliette Landphair also thought that the addition would add new traditions. Landphair saw the additional meeting spaces as an opportunity for the building to host larger events such as weddings and baby showers.
The addition to the Deanery was completed in 2009, funded by Westhampton College and an anonymous donor. In total over 5,400 square feet were added to the building, and added office space for the WILL*, Women Involved in Living and Learning, Program. In addition to the WILL* Program, a new position was created to lead the gender studies department.
There are plans to make dormitories co-ed in the fall of 2017, and change a 101-year-old tradition of separate living spaces for freshmen men and women. With this mix, Richmond College and Westhampton College will be redefined. Whatever the future configuration, the Westhampton Deanery will stand as the core of Westhampton College and embody its spirit and identity.
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