The joy for many of us volunteering with the Garden Club of America is “The Places We’ll Go”. Last week, the Flower Show and Judging Committees traveled to Charlottesville Virginia. Our HQ was the gracious Boar’s Head Inn, where I had this heavenly view with a room, above!
After a whole day closeted in windowless meeting rooms, we gratefully piled into a bus to visit the Great Lawn of the University of Virginia. Designed by Thomas Jefferson as a three-sided terraced rectangle, this was once the entire campus. He founded the University in 1819 and designed every aspect both architectural and educational.
Jefferson called his design for housing students and faculty an “Academical Village” and thought congregating in smaller groups fostered intellectual growth. Professors lived in the two-story pavilions on the second floor with classrooms on the ground floor.
Each pavilion has a different arrangement of classical elements. Between them are one-story arcades with student rooms. Although without bathrooms, closets or much natural light, these are still coveted student rooms spaces for 54 seniors.
Pavilion X, with its wonderful fretwork balustrades, was restored in 2010I with much controversy. After much research, the building was returned to the original colors with warm sandstone columns and much brighter green shutters. After years of gleaming white columns, the reaction was as you can imagine. But those of us not so used to seeing the white rather liked it.
The focal point at the head of the Lawn, Jefferson’s Rotunda is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration. Each capital (in the plywood boxes) has been hand-carved in Italy from Carrera marble and recently placed on top of the columns. Sadly the gorgeous new copper dome will painted white to match the original.
We were fortunate enough to go inside Pavilion I, which was being painted. The finest moldings and spaces were on the second floor. Jefferson envisioned bachelor professors occupying these homes, but that didn’t last long. Though elegant, these would have been cramped spaces to bring up a family.
Just as the lower arcades connected the students, those in the pavilions could visit or just sit out with a little more privacy from the students. I can imagine little children running from one to another.
Perhaps the most lasting impression for many visitors are Jefferson’s serpentine walls which enclose the pavilion gardens. Only one brick thick, the physics of their curves make them very strong and very beautiful. No student or aficionado of architecture could have a better seminar than a study of this breathtaking “Academical Village”, a World Heritage Site.