Distinguished Virginia member John Paul Conwell Hanbury, FAIA, died from complications related to cancer on Thursday, April 28. The 76-year-old Portsmouth native was a founding principal of the internationally-recognized firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Co. After guiding the firm’s historic preservation studio for two decades, he retired in 2005. Hanbury received the Society’s William C. Noland Medal in 1997.
Hanbury, the recipient of numerous awards for both design and service to the profession, was much-admired for his preservation work. “When urban renewal seemed synonymous with tearing down,” noted Carlton Abbott, FAIA, he “proved that imagination, preservation and activism were as effective as bulldozers to change the course of a community.” He guided the restoration of more than two dozen historic structures, including Norfolk’s 1913 Wells Theatre, the 1850 Freemason Street Baptist Church, and the Superintendent’s Quarters at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. His dedication and passion for saving historic structures contributed to the preservation of Portsmouth’s Olde Towne and the restoration of many of its significant structures. Undoubtedly, his most celebrated work was the award-winning restoration of the 1813 Virginia Executive Mansion. The project required exhaustive research and garnered numerous awards and national attention.
Hanbury was also noted for his volunteer service to his profession and community. His advice to others in his firm was, “If you believe that something is important, go lead it. Make a difference in the community.” To that end, he directed a loving restoration of the 1919 Branch House, transforming it into the Virginia Center for Architecture and home to the Virginia Society AIA. “John Paul (and his firm) made a significant and generous gift to us through his pro bono design work for the Center, over which he lavished such loving attention,” said the Center’s Founding President and Society CEO John Braymer.
“John Paul was a driving and shaping force for our firm. He led by example. He personally taught us so much about how to be professional, how to respect clients, how to respect the work we do, and he helped us understand why what we do is important. He was one of a kind,” said his colleagues. “He will be missed.”
A memorial service was held May 10 in Kilmarnock before interment in the Historic Christ Church churchyard near his home, Massaponax, in Irvington.