A History of 21 University Circle and the International Center
History as "Terraces" - 1914-1971
In 1914, the notable Charlottesville architect Eugene Bradbury built a house for Mrs. W.A.L. Trotter and her children on 21 University Circle. Additionally, he is the architect for two other houses on the street. Nearly a century later, these homes still stand strong and Mrs. Trotter’s as the current site of the Lorna Sundberg International Center. The street numbers of these three neighboring houses are perplexing enough to bedevil any visitor. This confusion began when a city official decided that University Circle was in actuality 18th Street and, therefore, decided that all the street numbers around the Circle should begin with the number eighteen. Some Circle residents complied with this new stipulation, but many preferred their old one- and two-digit numbers and refused to change. Consequently, the International Center today is denoted as 21 University Circle with 1841 for one next-door neighbor and 26 for the other.
Mrs. Trotter’s home was purchased in 1934 for $5,000 by Dr. William M. Thornton, U.Va.’s first Engineering School dean from 1904 to 1925 and chair of the faculty from 1886 to 1896. He bought the house for his daughters, Rosalie and Janet Thornton, and Mrs. Carter Thermon. He named it “The Terraces” after one of its most notable features—the gardens that stretched down the hill across what was then the city boundary and into Albemarle County.
The sisters shared the dwelling in their later years. As members of the Charlottesville community, they took an active interest in the affairs and progress of the University. In 1962 they decided to bequeath the house and most of its furniture to the University, hoping it would be used as a home for visiting professors. The Thornton sisters continued to reside in the “Terraces” and maintained a life interest in the house until their deaths.
The University of Virginia attains “The Terraces”
After Miss Rosalie died in 1969, the University assumed full ownership of the property. The house, however, was never used by visiting faculty, but was rented as a students’ residence. During this time, the Committee on International Students, Lucy Hale, Foreign Student Advisor, and international students and members of the community intervened. For years international students at UVa had wanted a building to serve as a surrogate home for students, visitors, and the community. When they learned that the University Circle house was available, they prepared a submission to the Board of Visitors, requesting both the house and money for its restoration. The Board approved this request in 1970. The increase of international students from fewer than 75 to nearly 300 during the course of the 1960’s reflected the timeliness and need for this decision.
The acquisition of the house was only the beginning of a long arduous process. A great deal of money was needed to convert the home into a public facility. This work was made possible by a generous grant from the Hunter Perry Foundation in Charlottesville. Mrs. Hale supervised this work, ensuring that the home was restored, rather than remodeled to the fashion of the time. As a result, visitors see a house today that largely resembles the home inhabited by the Thornton sisters.
The International Center is Founded
The first resident managers of the International Center were selected in the spring of 1972. That fall, the Center opened its doors to the community. Even when it was in beautiful order, however, the house was not a home without someone to run it. Although the University had provided the house, and had endowed it with a resident manager, there was still no funding for a program coordinator. When the house opened, students and others had to manage their own programs with no money and very little assistance. The unfortunate consequence of this situation was the inability of the students to meet many of the expectations that had been raised. Finally, the international students expressed their concerns clearly to the University administration, and as a result, the President commissioned a study by the Committee on International Students. The final report appeared in 1977.
In accordance to the recommendations of the report, the University provided funds for a program coordinator. The first coordinator was Nancy Flint (Rudolph). Her successor was Lore Amlinger, who was succeeded in turn by Lorna Sundberg.
The Present and Future of the International Center
Since first opening its doors in 1972, the International Center has developed and become an important educational, cultural, and social center for international visitors as well as for members of the Charlottesville community. In many ways, the house itself has made this possible. Having the house as a central meeting place allows the International Center to serve as a home away from home for visitors and as a focal point for the international and multi-cultural interests of the entire community. Here people are able to meet and work in a unique, friendly, and diverse atmosphere.
During its thirtieth anniversary year the International Center was named for the longest standing Center Administrator, Lorna Sundberg. The October 4th 2002 Board of Visitors resolution states:
...WHEREAS, Mrs. Lorna Sundberg’s commitment to the Center made it, under her direction, not only a gathering place for international students and faculty at the University, but a forum for interchange with the rest of the University community as well as the greater Charlottesville community;
...RESOLVED that the Board of Visitors names the International Center the Lorna Sundberg International Center and notes with gratitude the years of Mrs. Sundberg’s devoted service to the University
For more than thirty years the International Center has promoted intercultural exchange through various educational and social programs which have been developed over the years. This early 20th century home has become more than simply an old house once owned by the daughters of Dr. William Thornton. It has developed over the past three decades into a dynamic forum for exploring the world’s cultures and discovering the rich diversity within our international community of students, scholars, faculty and local residents.