The Resource Papers


Papers, 1917-1989
Inclusive dates
  • This accession consists of correspondence, clippings, maps, minutes, architectural drawings, photographs, and ephemera. The collection was compiled by John W. and Laila Pearsall from the late 1940s through the 1980s and concerns issues of historic preservation, city planning, zoning, urban renewal, roadways, and tourism chiefly in Richmond, Virginia. Major issues and events documented in these materials include the proposed expressway system in Richmond, the civic center proposal in the "north core" area, the construction of the Richmond Coliseum, the Historic Richmond Foundation and its board of trustees, Richmond-on-the-James, Inc., the preservation of Mayfield Cottage and the "Captain`s House."
  • Largely through accumulating newspaper clippings, the Pearsalls documented the numerous changes taking place in the City of Richmond during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. In addition, they monitored similar issues, such as urban renewal, in other cities and on the national level. Many of Richmond`s lost landmarks such as Broad Street Methodist Church, Beth Ahabah Synagogue on Eleventh Street between Marshall and Clay Streets, and the commercial and residential blocks demolished for construction of the Richmond Coliseum are noted in the collection. Also recounted is the construction of a number of Richmond`s skyscrapers in the Financial District along Main and Cary Streets and the numerous proposals for the expressway and toll road system
  • This collection was maintained by Mr. Pearsall using a subject-based number coding system (i.e. B2.0 = Planning), however, the filing was not consistently noted on the file folders and in some cases numbers were used without a corresponding subject heading. By and large, the filing arrangement has been maintained; however, the numbering system has not been utilized. Extant folder titles such as "Richmondiana" and "Miscellaneous Cultural" were retained by the processor
  • The collection is arranged alphabetically by folder title. The extensive newspaper clippings have not all been copied for preservation purposes. For articles with full citations, it was decided to create a citation sheet giving the researcher the information needed to access microfilm or online copies of the Richmond Times Dispatch or The Richmond News Leader, the periodicals from which the majority of the articles were taken by the Pearsalls. The originals of these fully cited articles are retained in the collection for use. Clippings without full citations were copied and the originals discarded by the processor. Researchers interested in broad topics such as urban renewal and historic preservation may need to consult several subject folders for articles related to their given topic. For instance, clippings related to urban renewal can be found in the Planning, Expressway/Toll Road, and "Richmondiana" folders
Member of
  • Accessioned
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Biographical or historical data
  • John W. Pearsall, a Richmond, Virginia, lawyer and businessman, took on a number of civic causes in the latter half of the 20th century, especially in the areas of historic preservation and urban renewal.
  • A 1935 graduate of Randolph-Macon College, Pearsall and his wife, Laila, became involved in a number of organizations in Richmond dedicated to history, preservation, commerce, and tourism. Mr. Pearsall was named the president of the Richmond Community Chest in 1955. He also served on the Chesterfield County Welfare Board, was an officer on the Sheltering Arms Hospital Board, and was appointed to the Richmond Metropolitan Authority in 1966.
  • Mrs. Pearsall was one of the founding members of Richmond-on-the-James, Inc., a group that sought to capitalize on Richmond's heritage tourism potential. The group merged with the Historic Richmond Foundation, an early sponsor of its efforts, in 1988. Mrs. Pearsall also served on the Board of Trustees of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. An outspoken opponent of urban renewal, Mr. Pearsall actively participated in the public debate and decision making that helped steer city planning in Richmond. As a founding member of the Historic Richmond Foundation, Pearsall worked to raise awareness of the potential and value of historic preservation in areas such as Church Hill, Fulton, and Jackson Ward. Pearsall's positions often found him at odds with the Richmond City Council and, in 1955-1959; the two parties fought a legal battle over the so-called "Pearsall Block," parcels sought by the city for its proposed civic center. As a property owner in "blighted" areas of Richmond considered ripe for renewal, Pearsall defended himself in newspaper editorials after he was labeled a "slum lord."
  • In addition to the numerous preservation successes of the Historic Richmond Foundation, Pearsall was active in preventing the demolition of Old City Hall (1894) and fought to save the New Deal- era Lee Bridge.
Cataloging source
One oversize folder filed separately
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
Immediate source of acquisition
Pearsall, John W.
Type of unit
cu. ft.



Member of

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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