Library/Special Collections department
tradition Skating on the University's ice pond was a popular
winter pastime for students during much of the 19th century.
revealing land-use history of Grounds
Hughes, landscape architect
figure eights on the University's ice pond was a winter pastime
for many students and other Grounds-dwellers during the 1800s.
The pond was created in the 1790s, when people living in this
community dammed Meadow Creek, at what is today the intersection
of Emmet Street and University Avenue, said U.Va. Landscape Architect
Mary Hughes. The purpose was two-fold, to provide a water source
for Monroe farm, and to create a more direct route to Three Notched
Road, the most traveled thoroughfare of that time, she said, explaining
that the existing road then ran along the ridge, in front of what
is now Monroe Hill House near McCormick Road.
findings about land use are being revealed in a study the Office
of the University Architect is conducting to document the
evolution of U.Va.'s landscape. "By focusing on the landscape,
we get a broader picture of the changes taking place in society
and of the interests and values of community, in addition to the
physical changes of the built environment," Hughes said.
She and University Architect Samuel A. "Pete" Anderson
III designed the five-year study, after receiving two grants totaling
summer we work with graduate student interns to produce a chronology
of major events and create a narrative that puts these findings
into context. Then a map is drawn to show what boundaries, topography,
land use and buildings existed at that time," Hughes said.
"This is the most novel aspect of our research, as it's challenging
to take written documents and apply information in context to
locations on a map," she said. The findings also help Hughes
and Anderson in developing the University's Master Plan.
use primary documents, such as board and proctors' minutes, photographs
and old maps, rather than anecdotal accounts," as the basis for
our study, Hughes said. "To draw items on our maps, we use two
sources," she said. "These new maps cumulatively offer a snapshot
of how the University has grown and changed over time."
maps have been produced thus far. They show that in the 1800s,
land use was largely for agricultural purposes to the northeast
and northwest sides of the Rotunda and at the then-open, south
end of the Academical Village, she said. In the 1900s, land in
these areas shifted from agricultural to recreational sports fields,
and for new buildings after the turn of the century.
summer, Hughes plans to have two or three interns research the
University's post-World War II period. When the study is completed
next year, she hopes to publish a book on the research findings
and to make the maps and narratives available on the Web.
what became of the ice pond?
the close of the 19th century, skating on the pond ended due to
public health concerns. Research shows that privies were situated
on the ridge above the springs that fed into the ice pond, Hughes
said. There had been a typhoid epidemic at the University in the
late 1820s, which led to the creation of the University Cemetery,
she noted. Following more outbreaks of typhoid fever and the loss
of more lives in the 1850s and 1870s, people eventually realized
that the pond water was contaminated and a source of the disease,
she said. It was an early lesson on the "major impact land-use
decisions can have on the community."
In the 1920s, the pond was fashioned into an elliptical reflecting
pool in front of Memorial Gymnasium. And in the 1950s, it was
filled in to allow for further development of the Grounds.