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Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village University of Virginia

Map of Lawn

Restoration Projects at Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village

Pavilion VII: The Restoration

original classroom door of Pavilion VII

The restoration of Pavilion VII, the oldest building in the Academical Village, began in the fall of 1998 and was completed in the spring of 2001. The pavilion was the sixth to be restored and was by far the largest and most complex project undertaken since the University began its historic preservation program in 1984. $3 million were raised from private donors and foundations. Encompassing the original Jeffersonian structure, an addition dating from the mid-1800s, and a much larger section built early in this century to provide overnight accommodations for visitors, the project went beyond bricks and mortar. It also took in the pavilion's service yard, side alley, and furnishings.

The West Lawn pavilion rivals the Rotunda in the richness of its history and its day-to-day public use. When its cornerstone was laid in 1817, three United States presidents took part in the ceremony: James Monroe, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson.

Pavilion VII served as the University's first library until the Rotunda was completed in 1826 and was known as the Old Library through much of the nineteenth century. Since 1907, it has housed the Colonnade Club, a faculty and alumni organization.


Pavilion VII: Highlights of the Restoration

Pavilion VII Skylight
Craftsmen Restoring Pavilion VII
  • In Jefferson's time, the doors in the Academical Village were painted with a wood grain pattern to resemble mahogany. Wood graining has been replicated on more than fifty doors in the building, including the pair of doors that originally led to Pavilion VII's classroom. Plastered over long ago, the doors were uncovered when the restoration began.

  • Construction work in the entry hall revealed the exact location and design of the pavilion's original stairway. This discovery provides a new understanding of how two upstairs rooms were used in the early days of the University.

  • Paint analysis revealed that the finishes in the oldest part of Pavilion VII were simple — whitewashed walls, painted woodwork, bare floors. The original Jeffersonian rooms have been painted two shades of white in keeping with their 1820s appearance.

  • Decorative moldings, which are largely intact in the original Jeffersonian rooms and the 1912 addition, have been restored to reveal the beauty of their details.

  • In the 1912 Reading Room, a twelve-by-sixteen-foot skylight has been re-installed. The original skylight had to be removed decades ago due to leakage. The room is painted its original color, yellow.

  • Entirely new systems for water, air circulation, and fire suppression have been installed for the entire building. Private bathrooms were constructed in the guest quarters, and an elevator was installed to afford access between the ground floor and first floor.


Pavilion VII: The Furnishing

Meeting the highest standards of beauty, craftsmanship, and historical accuracy, the antiques and reproductions in the pavilion's early rooms are reflective of the region and of the refined and eclectic tastes of the University's founder. These pieces also have the durability to withstand continual public use.

By having appropriate furnishings for this historic setting, the University can introduce students, faculty, and visitors to the decorative arts of Jeffersonian America. The interiors display a range of pieces, from the products of skilled mid-Atlantic cabinetmakers to reproductions of chairs or tables inspired by European tastes but made by accomplished local artisans. In this way, the furnishings become teaching tools to illustrate the rich and diverse material heritage of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

The furnishings of Pavilion VII also serve as an introduction to Jefferson's talents in the decorative arts. Just as he borrowed from classical architectural models and translated them into American buildings of brick, wood, and stucco, so he received inspiration for his designs for furnishings from European and American sources. He translated them into a style so distinctive and original that it has acquired, from professional historians, a witty label: Blue Ridge Directoire.


Pavilion VII: Decorative Arts Highlights

  • Library Bookcase
    The bookcase in Pavilion VII is believed to have been made by William and James Green, father and son, who emigrated from England to Alexandria in 1817. The shape of the pediment, the mullions, the turned ball feet, and the idiosyncratic use of black paint are all characteristic of the work of the Greens. It is possible that the bookcase was made at the request of the Board of Visitors for the Academical Village and has been at the University since its earliest days. If so, it might have housed some of the books in the first library in Pavilion VII.

  • Jacob Chairs
    While in Paris, Jefferson acquired a suite of chairs by the celebrated cabinetmaker Georges Jacob, renowned for the versatility of his designs. Reproductions of the chair Jacob made for Jefferson are used for seating in the front room of the ground floor as well as the meeting rooms of Pavilion VII.

  • Tablet back chairs
    Tablet back chairs, executed by the joiners at Monticello, are said to have been made either from Jefferson's own drawings based on chairs excavated at Pompeii or as a version of a French chair popular in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. It is believed the original chairs were created at Monticello by slave artisan John Hemings. Reproductions of the chair are used throughout Pavilion VII.

  • Carpets
    Special carpets, with the documented patterns and colors of the period, were manufactured by J. R. Burrows & Co., the American representative of Woodward Grosvenor & Co., Ltd., of Kidderminster, England. Woodward Grosvenor has been manufacturing carpets continuously since 1790 and has an extensive archive, on which the patterns are based. In the early nineteenth century, the color and pattern choices for carpets were based on rational Enlightenment principles of order in nature.


The Lawn and Range Room Restoration Projects

historic student rooms along the Lawn

The Lawn and Range Room Restoration Project was started in 1998 to re-introduce to the rooms lost details from the 1820's. In addition to installing window sashes that replicate the originals, the restoration crews reproduce the early woodwork surrounding the fireplaces. They also equip the rooms with new lighting, fire-detection equipment, and ceiling fans. To date, East Lawn 2-8 and 36-52, and West Lawn 9-55 have been restored.

The student room restoration program is being funded with the help of former Lawn and Range residents and other alumni and friends of the University. This project will help ensure that future generations of students share the experience of living and learning in one of the world's most revered academic settings.


Archaeology on the Lawn

Archaeology forms the underpinning for any successful historic preservation program. That's why the University turned to Benjamin Ford (Graduate Arts & Sciences '98), principal of Rivanna Archaeology, when a new irrigation system was installed on the Lawn in the summer of 2000. Mr. Ford performed archaeological testing in advance of the extensive trenching necessary for the construction.

archaeological excavations in 2000 revealed areaways.
Archaeological Testing on the Lawn in 2000

The results were rewarding and illuminating. Next to the contemporary sidewalk between Pavilions V and VI, Mr. Ford found artifacts dating to the first half of the nineteenth century, including broken ceramics, glass, nails, and a pipe bowl fragment,all of which suggest a significant level of activity in the area of the cross walks. Traces of an early pea gravel pathway were identified south of and adjacent to this cross walk. A mid-nineteenth-century wooden pipe and a trench used for early water service were also discovered in the same area. At the bottom of the first terrace south of the Rotunda, a single course row of bricks running the entire length of the rise was identified. Mr. Ford speculated that the row of bricks may have been a visual marker laid out by workers to demonstrate where the rise was to begin. Adjacent to the southernmost walk across the Lawn, Mr. Ford uncovered an earlier brick herringbone sidewalk.

After the Lawn excavation, Mr. Ford joined Professor John Dobbins of the McIntire Department of Art in examining the site of a future wheelchair access ramp on the south side of the Rotunda. Excavations revealed evidence of a four-foot wide "areaway" (a kind of dry moat) that paralleled the east and west Rotunda terrace walls. The Rotunda's areaway is attested in two pre-1895 photographs and in the McDonald Brothers and Stanford White plans made immediately after the Rotunda fire of 1895. The areaway was suppressed at an unknown date. At this stage of analysis, it is unclear whether the areaway belonged to the original Jeffersonian design or was a later addition. Further study of the archaeological material and archival records is expected to produce more information.

While analyzing the archaeological excavation and the pre-1895 photographs, it was discovered that the brick wall of the Rotunda cryptoporticus (the vaulted passageway where the semi-circular windows are) was veneered after the 1895 fire to support new concrete and marble railings. This observation was possible because of restoration work on the Rotunda decks, where the railings had been dismantled. "The summer of 2000 was a great one for archaeology at the University," said Mary Hughes, the University's landscape architect, as a season of discoveries and investigations concluded.

The findings "underscore the fact that, despite continued growth and development of the University over the past 200 years, intact cultural deposits from the earliest Jeffersonian period are clearly present within Central Grounds," Mr. Ford said. "As the University continues to upgrade its existing facilities and build new ones, the need to protect and preserve archaeological resources is paramount.


More About Restoration

Last Modified: 21-Feb-2007 12:01:17 EDT