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Grant To Help University Of Virginia Develop Historical Preservation Plan

September 22, 2003 -- Being venerable does not always mean being valuable.

At an institution such as the University of Virginia, which has some of the most venerated architecture in the United States, separating the two can be difficult. With a building boom under way, the University increasingly faces questions about the academic value of buildings that have stood for generations.

Now, thanks to a $170,000 grant from the Getty Grant Program, a historic preservation master plan will be developed to enable University officials to evaluate more than 100 sites on Grounds. Income from an endowment to the University by Hunter and Carl Smith will supplement the Getty grant.

“We’re extremely grateful to the Getty Grant Program for providing the funding for this comprehensive study,” said Mary V. Hughes, U.Va.’s landscape architect. “There was a tremendous amount of competition for this grant money.”

U.Va. President John T. Casteen III noted that the grant comes at a time when the University’s architectural landscape is undergoing dramatic changes. “How it eventually unfolds will depend as much on how we understand our past as it does on how we interpret it into a vision for the future,” he said. “The Getty grant will help us to focus on our rich architectural heritage and ways to keep it current.”

That is precisely the intent of the grant, which is part of Getty’s Campus Heritage initiative.

“American colleges and universities face unique challenges as stewards of historic resources,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Grant Program and dean for external relations of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “The Campus Heritage initiative represents the Getty's commitment to helping educational institutions across the nation plan for the preservation of
their historic buildings, sites, and landscapes. These grants are particularly intended to assist the universities in incorporating preservation into their campus master plans, allowing them to research the best possible methods for future care and maintenance.”

The preservation plan will provide both an inventory and assessments of the historical significance of buildings and landscapes that are at least 40 years old. It will document and evaluate defining features and materials of the sites, and provide recommendations for their preservation and use as part of the overall master plan for the University.

Hughes noted that as the University grows, there will be considerable pressure on Central Grounds to accommodate new facilities.

“Everyone wants to be close to the existing academic core,” she said. “We need to have a sense of preservation goals in order to make good planning decisions in the future.

“Further, in a time of scarce economic resources, having a sense of priorities will help in allocating dollars in the right places,” she said.

The University is renowned for the Academical Village designed by Thomas Jefferson. That area of the Grounds, with the Rotunda and distinctive pavilions, has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

But there are numerous other prominent historic sites, including five designed by Stanford White of the New York firm McKim, Mead & White, among America’s most prominent architectural firms at the turn of the last century.

The minimum age to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places is 50 years, and the University has not yet systematically evaluated even those properties.

The University has formed a steering committee of leading preservation experts to help guide the planning process, and this fall a search will be conducted for a team of preservation consultants to work with the University Architect’s Office.

Three phases are envisioned. First, maps, drawings, correspondence and other source material will be used to prepare a site history. Second, in April 2004 experts will compile an inventory that not only details the sites’ history and condition but also documents repairs and other work.

Third, buildings and landscapes will be prioritized on a list of recommendations that will serve as guidelines for managing historic properties. Each sites’ potential for adaptive use will be analyzed, along with health, safety and fire considerations and any potential limitations or constraints. The project is expected to be completed in December 2004.

While professionals will do the bulk of the work, students already are playing a significant role. An interdisciplinary team of graduate students from the School of Architecture has worked over several summers to trace the development of land use, roads, topography, water and vegetation in addition to buildings. They have produced a narrative history that identifies historic periods and themes.

Students also will work as research assistants over the next two semesters, and during the summer five students will work as interns.

“They will be applying what they learn in class,” Hughes said. “We’ll be fulfilling Jefferson’s dream of making the University an architectural classroom.”

Lisa Reilly, chair of the Department of Architectural History at U.Va., said, “This grant will provide an unparalleled opportunity for our students to apply the knowledge they are gaining in their courses directly to an application similar to those they will encounter in their careers after completing their degrees.”

The Smiths’ gift, a matching grant of $250,000 given in 1988, reflects their longtime interest both in the University and in historic preservation. Carl Smith, a U.Va. alumnus and former member of the Board of Visitors, served as chairman of the Jefferson Restoration Advisory Board, which oversaw efforts to preserve the University’s historic buildings.

Contact: Lee Graves, (434) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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