Urban Campus

Gray Court

Gray Court

Gray Court viewed from the Westhampton Green, where the dedication of the dormitory was held in 1974.

Gray Court

The main entrance to Gray Court from Westhampton Way, where West Wing and East Wing meet.

Gray Court-1974

In the early 1940's, there was a huge shortage of housing for Westhampton College students, as the school was growing larger every year. Although a womens dorm housing 119 women was opened in 1948, more space was still desperately needed. In early April, 1972, the Board of Trustees voted to build a new $2.25 million freshmen women's dormitory overlooking the lake, and the plans were approved in April of 1973. In 1974, Gray Court became the third all-female dormitory on the Westhampton College side of campus, located in between Heilman Dining Hall and North Court Dormitory. Construction was completed by W. M. Walder Jr., Inc. in August 1974, then opened on October 18, 1974. The architect for this collegiate gothic style dorm was the firm Carneal & Johnton, a firm that designed most of the University's buildings at that time.The building cost approximately $2.2 million to build, and housed 278 women in suite-style accomodations. It was funded by Senator Garland Gray, Richmond College '21 and trustee, in honor of his late wife Agnes Taylor Gray, Westhampton College '23, whom he met while attending the University. In his invitation to students, faculty, and staff for the Gray Court dedication, President E. Bruce Heilman honored the Gray family saying, "few families in this century have been as closely affilaited with the University of Richmond as have Senator Garland Gray and his family."

The dedication took place on the afternoon of October 18, 1974, and was held on the Westhampton Green in front of Gray Court with 250 people in attendance. During the dedication, many alumnae, students, and faculty spoke and gave tributes in honor of the Gray family, Rev. H. Hugo Blankingship prayed, and the University Choir performed. Additionally, the governor of Virginia, Mills E. Godwin Jr, gave the dedication address, speaking in memory of Agnes Taylor Gray, as well as highlighting his support for an upcoming ammendment that would help private institutions receive state funding, a relevant issue at the dedication because there were inital funding problems with Gray Court. The future residents acted as hostesses for the dedication, gave tours of the building, and socialized with alumni of the school.

Being an all women's dorm means that Gray Court had many differences from other dorms on campus at the time. While most other buildings had to be renovated and adjusted to have air conditioning later on after they were built, Gray never did because it was one of the first buildings on campus that was originally built with air conditioning. The building is shaped like a 'W' and is separated into the East and West Wing. West Wing on the North Court side, and East Wing on the Heilman Dining Hall side. Gray Court is constructed in the traditional Unviersity of Richmond collegiate gothic style, using brick with limestone accents so that the building is cohesive with the rest of campus. However, because money was tight, it was constructed using many cheaper methods and simpler desings than other dormitories on the Westhampton side. The limestone detailing around the windows and doors are much less elaborate, and instead of having rooms on the third floor with the roof as the ceiling, Gray has three flat floors and a completely separate attic space because the roof is attached on the ceiling of the third floor (see building plans below). Because of this, the dormers on the roof are fake because there were no student rooms that needed windows o extra space. Because Gray Court was made more cheaply, it has a beam that runs horizontally through the center of each floor that supports the weight of the dorm. Compared to other dorms, Gray is more standardized because it was built like a commercial building, while other dorms were often constructed like houses.

In June of 1975, work began to renovate the East Wing of the basement to create more student rooms, although previously the space was somewhat unexcavated and somewhat used for storage because although the dorm had just been built the previous year, more space was already needed due to influx of students. Throughout the years, many rooms experienced a change in purpose. For example, when there was no need for dating rooms or linen rooms, those were turned into bedrooms. In 1990, the lounges on each floor were converted into student rooms because of a temporary housing crisis at the University because of overenrollment of the freshmen class, and although the students complained of lack of space and too few outlets, they ultimately decided that the advantages to living in a lounge outweighed the disadvantages. In 2001, the school decided to make Gray Court an all male dorm, while Marsh Hall and Robins Hall became all female. Gray was chosen because it is the largest dorm on the Westhampton side, and its location at the center of Westhampton made it the perfect geographical location to increase mixed-gender interaction and dimish the 'lake effect' that causes separation of the sexes. Even though men already believed that Gray Court was the "most male-style dorm" of Westhampton, many changes were made to the dorms before the men moved in, including removing mirrors from the rooms and adding a pool table in the basement, but many residents were upset with the lack of urinals. In 2003, extensive renovations were done because of the thin walls, ceiling tiles destroyed by residents, and disguting and damaged bathrooms that took staff an extra 700 hours to clean. Because of this, Gray would only house freshmen males in 2003, since 60% of the damage was done by sophomores. In 2007, it was decided that Gray Court would only house upperclassmen males, to provide more attractive on-campus living space for upperclassmen. In 2009, Gray Court became co-educational to allow housing to accomodate for fluctiations in the number of students of each gender.

Gray Court