"Our University is the last of my mortal cares, and the last service I can render my country."
--Thomas Jefferson

Retiring to Monticello in 1809 at the end of his second term as president, Thomas Jefferson focused all his energies on the creation of a university which would "prove a blessing to my own State, and not unuseful perhaps to some others." Joining him in the enterprise were Presidents James Madison and James Monroe; together with John Hartwell Cocke of Fluvanna County, noted reformer and a general in the War of 1812; and Joseph Carrington Cabell, a delegate and state senator from Amherst County, who supported Jefferson's educational program in the Virginia legislature.

Jefferson's early study for Pavilion VII, the first building erected at the University, shows an elevation of the pavilion with adjacent dormitories and Chinese railings, and plans of the first and second floors. The specifications begin: The walls of the Pavilion are 116 feet running measure. Jefferson has drawn the building on engraved coordinate paper he imported from France.