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Preserving Jeffersonian Architecture

December 2023
1min read


NOW AS IN 1817 , Thomas Jefferson’s plan for the University of Virginia combines form and function in elegant simplicity. His academical village —a complex of ten pavilions and connecting student rooms flanking the central Rotunda —is now well into the second half of its second century. Today, it combines the roles of working university, popular attraction for travelers and the “models of good taste” and architectural specimens Jefferson intended. A 1976 poll of the American Institute of Architects cited the academical village as the outstanding achievement of American architecture, and it has been designated a Registered National Historic Landmark.

THROUGH 167 YEARS of daily use the buildings have borne up under constant wear with only routine —and sometimes piecemeal —maintenance. Now the strains are beginning to show. Important structural work has been left undone, plumbing and wiring are substandard and roofs and flooring are badly in need of rehabilitation.

THE MAINTENANCE and preservation of the academical village are partially assisted by the State ofVirginia and by the University’s private endowment funds in addition to private gifts. These maintenance funds are, however, insufficient to defray the specialized and ongoing repairs the historic buildings now require —at a cost estimated at $500,000 a year.

AS PART OF a $90 million capital campaign now under way, the University is seeking a minimum of $1 million toward a $5 million endowment for the preservation of the Jeffersonian Buildings and Grounds, and a national advisory board has been established to help in fundraising for the endowment. The board is to foster an ongoing curatorship for the property and will initiate preservation technology and research. Plans also call for the board to establish an archive for drawings, photographs and written documents pertaining to the Lawn’s history and significance.

THE UNIVERSITY WELCOMES gifts to the Fund for the Preservation of Jeffersonian Buildings and Grounds. They should be sent to the University of Virginia-Fund, P.O. Box 3446, University Station, Charlottesville, Va., 22903.

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