Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, this Memorial Building and Great Hall was affectionately dedicated November 11, 1957, in Richmond, Virginia, to the Women of the South and to the women of the Confederate States of America for their loyal devotion, self-sacrifice, adaptability to new tasks, constancy of purpose, exemplary faith in never changing principles. In these qualities reposes the memory of the women of the Confederacy.
The focal point in the Great Hall is the oil painted by G. B. Matthews. Originally created in 1906 for the Jamestown Expedition, it would later be given to the Robert E. Lee Camp No. 1, United Confederate Veterans. The C.S.S. Virginia was originally a fine Union steam frigate of 3,500 tons known as the Merrimac. On March 8, 1862, she entered the Hampton Roads, sank the Cumberland, destroyed the Congress, and drove the Minnesota aground. On the morning of March 9, 1862, when the Virginia returned to complete the destruction of the Minnesota, she was met by a still stranger craft — the Monitor — of only 776 tons.
The idea for a permanent home for the UDC was first voiced by Mrs. Norman V. Randolph at the Virginia Division Convention held in 1919 in Staunton. She presented an offer from the Confederate Memorial Literary Society, the parent Organization of what is now also known as the Museum and White House of the Confederacy located in Richmond. The offer was to donate land next to the museum for a UDC building. She presented this resolution at the Annual General Convention that year in Tampa, Florida and it was approved. Work began immediately to arrange a land transfer, but due to various difficulties these efforts failed. In 1927, it was again investigated with no results. Finally, in 1948 the need was so great that another committee was appointed to find a solution.
In 1949, at the Annual General Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana attendees voted on antebellum homes that had been offered for sale in Charleston, South Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; Montgomery, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia. They also voted on a lot of land in Richmond that had been offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The decision was almost unanimous to approve the Richmond land, 200′ x 265′ in R. E. Lee Memorial Park, site of the former R. E. Lee Camp Soldiers Home. The stipulations from the Commonwealth were that:
- the UDC had five years (later changed to ten) to complete the building;
- if the building was not used for a five-year period the land would revert to the Commonwealth;
- if at least $100,000 was invested on the land, Virginia would give a $10,000 gift. In addition, Virginia Division pledged $10,000.
The deed was presented in 1950 and the groundbreaking ceremony held in 1955. The building contract was awarded to J. Kennon Perrin of Richmond for $346,998, plus a 7 percent architect’s fee to the Ballou and Justice architectural firm and $25,000 for the bronze entrance doors. Additional funds to pay for construction of the building came from members through personal donations and a quota system of $2.00 per member/per year over a period of four years.
The Memorial Building features a Georgia marble facade, Virginia brick walkways, Italian filetto basso marble wainscoting and columns, Georgia marble floors, bronze railings and a 24′ ceiling in the Great Hall. The chairs in the Great Hall are those used by the Veterans of the Lee Camp Soldiers Home. The 11′ x 16′ bronze doors were a gift of the Children of the Confederacy Organization and featured alternating panels of the UDC seal, motto and cotton boll design. The bronze lighting fixtures on the outside of the building were formerly part of the Jefferson Davis Monument on Monument Avenue.