Oct 04, 2007
Feb 03, 2008
Our first stop was at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. We had not planned on visiting here until one of the people we met at a B&B strongly recommended it. It's a beautiful campus.
Thomas Jefferson designed and had it built after he retired from politics - with contributions from others such as James Madison and James Monroe - two other ex-Presidents who lived in the area). He started in his 70s and the first students enrolled when he was 85. He died a bit after a year later. The layout of the initial buildings (we didn't see the whole campus which we believe is huge) is very friendly. It consists of two long rows of buildings on either side of a rectangle with the famous rotunda at one short end. Jefferson designed the rotunda as a smaller version of the Pantheon in Rome. It was the library. It's now open for public tours.
The two rows of buildings consisted of single story student accommodation interspersed with double story buildings (5 each side) which housed a Professor on the top floor and classrooms for that discipline on the first floor. Jefferson's intent with this design was to enable students to interact with their Professor more regularly than when they lived in separate areas. Now the single level rooms are considered an honour to live in and are allocated accordingly. The double story buildings are staff residences. Jefferson's design was based on Classical Greek and Roman designs. Each building was different, intended to be examples for the architecture students.
In the afternoon we visited Montpelier, the home of James Madison, the fourth President, and his wife Dolley. The home was bought by a member of the Du Pont family who significantly extended it. His daughter inherited it and she left it to the National Trust. They are now restoring it to as it was when the Madisons lived there. So far they have spent about $US20 million and estimate they need another $US10 million. It is currently work in progress. They have removed most of the additions and taken all the stucco off the walls. The guide showed us the incomplete rooms on the first floor only as the second floor was not open. They are being meticulous - using 150 year old wood for lathes on the walls and finding doors that the Du Ponts moved and putting them back in their original place.
Today was a cold day; something we think can be taken as read for the foreseeable future. It was also sunny so we saw beautiful scenery, including much Fall foliage, as we drove.