In November 2011, CRA completed an archaeological and architectural survey for the Capital Region Airport Commission’s ten proposed improvements to the Richmond International Airport (RIC) as a component of an environmental assessment being prepared for a series of federally-funded projects proposed as part of RIC’s master plan. The architectural survey included reconnaissance level documentation of historic architectural resources 50 years of age or older on the RIC property and on lands adjacent to the RIC property that were historically associated with military use of the airport.
Such military use is intricately tied to the history and development of the airport, as defense plans were expansive during the World War II-era, adding over 400 buildings and over 2,600 acres of land. Planned as a base for aircraft bombing operations, the facility shifted its mission to fighter pilot training and bomber and engineering support. Among the facilities constructed on-site were a series of small, heavily reinforced concrete buildings for storage for the then secret Norden bombsights. The Richmond Army Air Base was also unique in its original design and construction since it was the United States’ first completely camouflaged military base. All newly constructed roads, ditches, buildings, and runways were painted or planted with camouflage treatments.
Results of the Survey
During the course of the architectural survey, 28 individual resources, as well as the entire complex of the RIC, which was evaluated as a potential district associated with World War II-era military use of the facility, were assessed for potential National Register of Historic Places eligibility. None of the 28 individually recorded resources or the potential district are presently listed in the National Register. CRA found that three resources were potentially eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion A for their association with the World War II mobilization effort and the development of the Norden bombsight and Criterion C, as intact and nationally rare examples of resources from this era. The remaining 25 sites were not found to possess significance or retain sufficient integrity to be eligible for listing in the National Register.
In agreement with the findings of previous cultural resources, CRA also found that the potential Richmond Army Air Base Historic District did not retain sufficient integrity to be considered eligible for listing in the National Register under Criterion A, B, or C. CRA also evaluated the potential for the proposed projects to affect the National Register-eligible properties. In applying the Criteria of Adverse Effect, CRA found that the proposed improvements would not diminish any of the character-defining features or aspects of integrity under which the resources were eligible for listing in the National Register.