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Lay explores Albemarle's varied architectural styles in new book

Staff Report

Ed Lay

K. Edward Lay is the Cary D. Langhorne Professor of Architecture at U.Va. and joined the faculty in 1967. He is co-author of A Virginia Family and Its Plantation Houses, also published by the University Press of Virginia.

His service to the cause of historic preservation has been honored many times and includes awards from the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and from the City of Charlottesville, and perhaps most notably, from his students, who sponsor "Ed Lay Day" at the School of Architecture, complete with custom T-shirts. He has served as associate dean of the Architecture School, and has chaired Charlottesville's Historic Landmarks Commission and the Board of Architectural Review.

Many aspects of Lay's career are brought together in The Architecture of Jefferson Country. He has explored both the vernacular and classical traditions of Virginia architecture, earning grants to study the European basis of Virginia's Ulster Scot and German rural architecture, and conducting research in the Palladian environment of Vicenza, Italy, where he taught in U.Va.'s summer abroad programs. Lay has expanded an architect's natural admiration for Jefferson into a comprehensive evaluation of the continuing influence of Jefferson and his master builders in and around Albemarle County.

Along with Thomas Jefferson's architectural legacy, many important examples of other architectural styles have been built in Albemarle County. At the turn of the 20th century, the renewed interest of wealthy clients in eclectic styles attracted some of the finest "Beaux Arts" architects in the country to the Charlottesville area. Grand new buildings complemented and competed with the Jeffersonian models 100 years earlier. In addition, throughout its history Albemarle County has seen construction of a great variety of public architectural landmarks: mills and churches, movie theaters and hospitals, gas stations and taverns.

For many years U.Va. professor K. Edward Lay has been teaching, guiding tours of and writing about this rich architectural legacy. The Architecture of Jefferson Country is his definitive treatment of a topic that has been his life's work. The book, which includes 26 color photographs and 369 black-and-white illustrations, is divided into six chronological chapters: "The Georgian Period," "Thomas Jefferson and his Builders," "The Roman Revival (1800-1830)," "The Greek Revivial (1830-1860)," "Beyond the Classical Revival" and "The Eclectic Era (1890-1939)." A final chapter discusses the University. Lay explores more than 800 buildings, from a Sears house to grand estates, the Abell-Gleason house and the Albemarle County jail to Wavertree Hall and Zion Baptist Church. Maps of the area allow readers and visitors to trace the locations of individual buildings and to recognize trends of settlement and construction in the area.

"The Architecture of Jefferson Country" is an amazing compendium of research and documentation and a model study of a county's architectural legacy," said Richard Guy Wilson, U.Va. Commonwealth Professor of Architectural History. "Albemarle County's architecture mirrors national trends, but also from its soil sprang some of the United States' most refined and historically significant creations and styles."

A comprehensive CD-ROM inventory of over 3,000 images identified with 2,400 buildings is available to supplement the book. The CD-ROM allows the user to scroll through county and town maps and click on important buildings to access individual records. The records, drawings and photographs are searchable by building type or characteristic, surname or other keywords. Also included is the 1907 Massie Map of the county, which hasn't been reproduced since its origin. The map shows historical data and the locations of buildings.


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