We woke up on the third and final day of our Charlottesville Anniversary Trip refreshed from the slower pace but sad to leave.
We walked over to the main dining area of the B&B to eat our final breakfast in their sunroom.
Once we filled up on breakfast, we started off on our 5 minute walk to the University of Virginia’s campus.
We decided to tour this on our last and final day in Charlottesville because it was Thomas Jefferson’s last and most beloved gift to our country. It is said that he loved the University so much that he insisted that it be named as one of the three things on his epitaph, even taking precedence over his time as President of the United States.
Jefferson started his plans for the University of Virginia in 1819 after becoming disenchanted with the increasingly religious William & Mary, his alma mater.
The heart of the campus is centered on the Academical Village. This was an incredible break from the tradition of the time where universities revolved around their cathedrals. By centering the campus on the Rotunda, Jefferson made it clear that his university would be distinctly removed from religious pressures.
The Academical Village is pillared by the Rotunda at the north end of the Lawn with the pavilions flanking either side.
The pavilions were a key part in Jefferson’s live and learn university, where the teachers and students lived together to continuing learning outside of the classrooms.
Students and professors still live in these quarters. It’s considered to be a great honor to be selected to live in these dorms even though the occupants must walk outside to go to the bathroom. I bet that’s cold in the winter!
In between the pavilions sits the Rotunda, a half sized replica of the Pantheon in Rome, an unimaginable feat considering Jefferson never visited the Pantheon in person.
Construction on the Rotunda began in 1822, costing around $57,000. Several years later, a long hall was added onto the back to add additional classroom space.
Unfortunately, the entire original structure was burnt to the ground in the Great Fire of 1895.
The building that stands today is thanks to a 1976 $2.4 million restoration that brought the Rotunda back to its original form. Before that time, the Rotunda had been rebuilt after the fire but not to the same specifications as the original (it had two floors instead of the original three and a larger Dome Room).
After admiring the outside of the Rotunda, we ventured inside for a tour given by one of the undergraduate students.
The lower floor contains two rooms that were originally used as classrooms in the University’s early days.
The room to the east still contains cut outs for ovens that were used during chemistry class.
Displayed on the second floor of the Rotunda is a life size statue of Thomas Jefferson, sculpted out of marble in 1861. This is one of the only pieces that was saved from the fire in 1895. Students tied the statue to a mattress and lowered it down through the stairs.
The statue sustained a few chips to the cape during this rescue but it was largely unharmed.
The second floor contains three other rooms.
The East Room used to function as a lecture hall but now serves as the meeting space for the governing body of the University. The table in this room is a long as one of the columns on the front of the Rotunda.
The West Room is reserved for visiting dignitaries. Most notably Queen Elizabeth used this room during her recent visit.
The North Oval Room is used for the defense of doctoral dissertations.
The top floor of the Rotunda, the Dome Room, served as the University’s library. The books themselves were so valuable to the students that they were the only other artifacts saved from the fire’s wrath. Students were said to have thrown books out the windows into the hoop skirts of the women standing down below.
This room also served as a social gathering place. If one stands in the center of the room, the columns make the bookshelves completely disappear. It’s said that Jefferson didn’t want the books to distract them from socializing.
From this floor, you can observe one of the most iconic views of the grounds. In his last visit to the University, Jefferson sat on a chair staring out this window for hours. This was his favorite view of the University.
After our tour was completed, we headed back out to the Lawn to explore the pavilions and the grounds even more.
It was like being transported back into an 18th century sleepy mountain town.
And with that our trip of Charlottesville was over.
It was so sad to leave this beautiful relaxing place but I was so grateful that we got to spend so much time together for our 1 year anniversary.
Here’s to many more amazing anniversary trips.