Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Randolph students, professor research Rivermont history

The community surrounding Randolph College is rich in history, and two students and a professor spent the summer documenting the stories of the people who have lived, worked, attended school, and worshipped in that neighborhood

The Rivermont Avenue area, built at the same time as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, was designated as an official historic district in 2002, but a comprehensive history of the district has never been written, said Gerry Sherayko, a history professor and current president of the Friends of Rivermont Historical Society.

In 2010, he worked with Nick Marshall ’11 and Kathleen Conti ’11 to start researching the Rivermont area’s history and take photographs of buildings along the avenue. This summer, he continued the work with Jane Campbell ’12 and Callie Jones ’13 for the Summer Research Program.

Their goal was to go deeper than a timeline and discover personal stories that reveal culture, Sherayko said. “It is not just the history of this street,” he said. “This is going to be an ongoing, interesting story about life in the south.”

Each building along Rivermont Avenue has a story. The history that Gerry Sherayko and his students are compiling will tell many of those stories.
Campbell and Jones spent the eight weeks of the Summer Research Program conducting interviews and perusing records. They interviewed several Rivermont Avenue residents, landowners, and former residents, and transcribed the interviews recorded last summer. The group also delved into land ownership and assessment records and used city directories to discover the occupations of those who lived in the area.

An unexpected interview arranged by Don Giles, a member of the Randolph College Board of Trustees, introduced them to Vincent Scully, a famous Yale architecture professor, who spends part of the year living in Lynchburg. They talked with Scully about the street’s architecture and how it reflects cultural history. Jones said that was helpful since she has an interest in architectural history.

Rivermont Avenue is rich in history and remains a major thoroughfare in Lynchburg.
The research conducted by Campbell and Jones will be paired with historic and new photographs of each building along Rivermont Avenue. The Design Group, a graphic design firm located on Rivermont Avenue, is working with Sherayko to create a website to host the information.

The history will be updated as time passes, Sherayko said.

“This will be something that’s very useful for people who live here,” he said.