Section of the Rotunda Annex, 1851
Section of the Rotunda Annex, 1851 Robert Mills, architect Ink on paper Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Montgomery C. Meigs Papers

By 1850, the Academical Village could no longer provide space for all of the University’s needs; the Board of Visitors hired Robert Mills to design a multi-purpose academic building.  Mills had studied Jefferson’s architecture books before embarking on a significant career that included designs for the U.S. Treasury and the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital.

Eastern View of the University of Virginia
Photograph of the eastern view of the University of Virginia showing the Rotunda Annex and Long Walk, 1872 Edwin M. Betts Memorial Collection of University of Virginia Prints (MSS 7073)

Connected to the north side of the Rotunda and raised on a podium, the “Annex” was inspired by Jefferson, although the column capitals were made of the modern material cast-iron. Many later found the building too large and criticized it for overwhelming Jefferson’s Rotunda.

Interior of the Rotunda Annex
Photograph of the interior of the Rotunda Annex decorated for Jefferson’s birthday, 1867 (MSS 6436)

More than double the size of Jefferson’s Rotunda, the Annex boasted a number of classrooms and a lecture hall, replacing the Rotunda dome room for large gatherings. Between 1850 and 1854, University alumni commissioned a copy of Raphael’s “School of Athens” by the celebrated French artist Paul Balze for the new building’s 1,200-seat auditorium. The hundreds who contributed envisioned the painting as a “nucleus of a Gallery of Fine Arts” that would, like the Academical Village, be inspired by ancient Roman buildings and provide American students with the opportunity to experience the masterpieces of Europe.