The second oldest building on Hampden-Sydney College's campus, Venable Hall will be restored to its 19th century glory while simultaneously boasting 21st century student standards. Thanks to this thoughtful renovation, H-SC students will soon reside in a 200-year-old dormitory while enjoying every contemporary amenity they could want.

The College is partnering with MCWB Architects, a firm widely respected for its historic preservation work at sites across the country, including Monticello, Montpelier, and Mount Vernon. It has provided Hampden-Sydney with a robust and historically sound plan for renovation. Read more about it in the latest in-depth Record story, Hallowed Hall.

  • Venable Hall photo circa 1880s

    Venable Hall circa 1880s

  • Architectural drawing of the renovation of Venable Hall

    Architectural drawing of the renovation of Venable Hall

  • Uncovering fireplaces in student rooms

    Uncovering fireplaces in student rooms

  • Uncovered fireplace in student room

    Uncovered fireplace in student room

  • Mock up restored dorm room

    Mock up restored dorm room

  • Architectural drawing of the restored Parent and Friends loung

    Architectural drawing of the restored Parents & Friends lounge

  • Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

    Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

  • Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

    Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

  • Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

    Architectural drawing of the new Venable atrium

  • Architectural drawing of the new Venable east lounge

    Architectural drawing of the new Venable east lounge


The restoration project began in 2021 and is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2024.


The estimated total cost of the project is $25 million.

Historic Preservation Architecture Firm

Mesick Cohen Wilson Baker Architects (MCWB)
MCWB—with offices in Albany, New York, and Williamsburg, Virginia—has special expertise in historic renovations and preservation. The company’s portfolio includes restorations of numerous National Historic Landmarks such as Monticello, Poplar Forest, Montpelier, and Mount Vernon. With Venable Hall qualifying for historic tax credits to offset up to 45 percent of the project costs, the firm’s experience in historic renovations is especially pertinent.

Using what they call forensic architecture, MCWB dove into the history of Venable to understand how it has changed over time, deciphering what elements are original to the building and determining what to restore, remove, or recreate. They provided Hampden-Sydney with a robust and historically sound renovation proposal to work from.

Restoration Plans

The restoration of Venable pays homage to the vision of the College’s leadership throughout the years as well as the master craftsmanship of Cosby and Perry. From under layers of plywood and vinyl emerged original heart pine flooring; original fireboxes and hearths were unearthed and restored in bedrooms; original closets and doors flanking the fireplaces were restored; and third-generation Prussian blue paint was discovered, recreated, and once again cheerfully colors the trim throughout the bedrooms.

To achieve modern convenience, a four-story, 10,000-square foot addition was constructed to the rear of the original Venable Hall footprint. The addition boasts an airy, skylit atrium that welcomes students home while also serving as breakout spaces for community members using the Parents & Friends Lounge. Brand-new bathrooms with accessible fixtures, increased privacy, and ample storage are also housed in the rear addition, allowing the College to reclaim several bedrooms in the original building that were converted to bathrooms in 1987.

Parents & Friends Lounge is also getting a facelift and an upgrade. The Lounge will remain largely architecturally untouched due to Department of Historic Resources guidance, but a cosmetic refresh will welcome community members to a beautiful meeting space. For conferences and speakers, discreet and retractable audio-visual equipment can be deployed from either side of the stairways and live streaming equipment will broaden the reach and accessibility of College programming. For social events, the space will be able to accommodate up to 120 guests for dinners, socials, reunions, weddings, and more with the option to use student rooms for overnight events when the College is not in session.

On the third floor of the atrium will be a faculty- or staff-in-residence apartment inspired by the legacy of former Professor of Classics and College Historian John Brinkley ’59. Brinkley, along with his cigar and cane, was a preeminently visible fixture on campus for more than 40 years. By creating a faculty- or staff-in-residence apartment, the College hopes to create more opportunities for faculty and staff members to become that well-known, go-to member of the community, thus building bridges between College employees and students and visitors.

A History of Venable

Built in two major phases between 1824 and 1831 by Dabney Cosby and John Perry—two masons who were proteges of Thomas Jefferson—Venable Hall was originally part of the Union Theological Seminary and housed dormitories, classrooms, a library, and a chapel. When the seminary moved to Richmond in 1898, Major Richard Venable, Class of 1857, purchased Venable along with Penshurst and Middlecourt (which Cosby also helped construct), Winston (now Brinkley) Hall, Maples, and several other seminary-owned buildings located to the east of the intersection of College Road and Via Sacra for $10,000 and donated them to the College.

At the same time that Cosby and Perry were constructing Venable, their colleagues Reuben Perry and William Phaup were working on Cushing Hall. As MCWB notes in the feasibility study prepared for the College, “owing to the close friendship between the workmen of the two buildings, a strong axial relationship was formed, linking the two separate campuses as one.”

the drawing of the campus plan with Venable HallVenable Hall set the precedent for how the campus looks today. The gravity of its importance to campus inspired College leadership time and again, such as in the 1920 central campus plan (left) created by architect James L. Burley, who made the axial relationship established between Venable Hall and Cushing Hall 100 years earlier the anchor of his plan.


Make your mark on history at H-SC

From convocation to commencement, Venable Hall bookends the Hampden-Sydney experience, occupying a singular and storied space in the memories of our alumni. And thanks to the current restoration project, generations of Hampden-Sydney men now have the rare opportunity to honor the past and celebrate the future. The College invites alumni, parents, or friends to make a gift to name an individual room or one of the special spaces inside these hallowed halls in perpetuity.

Naming opportunities begin with pledges of $50,000. If you’d like to have your name or a family member’s name grace a restored room or another space in Venable, please contact Heather Howarth in the Office of College Advancement for details. Heather may be reached at

We also invite all Hampden-Sydney alumni who once called its halls home to take a trip down memory lane. No matter when you lived in Venable, you are part of a treasured line of students who laughed, studied, and debated there, forming lifelong bonds within Venable’s hallowed walls. We plan to compile a history of the men of Venable Hall and invite you to share where you lived and when you lived there.

Contribute to the Venable Hall Story