ON Monday last, the 6th of October, 1817," said the Richmond Inquirer, "the
first stone of the Central College was laid at Charlottesville, and that
with all the ceremony and solemnity due to such an occasion. The society
of Free Masons and a large company of citizens attended. The scene was
graced by the presence of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, late
Presidents of the United States, and of James Monroe, the actual

The completion of the restored Rotunda, the opening of the new
buildings and their formal dedication to the work for which they have been
designed would be a fitting solemnization of the eightieth anniversary of
Alma Mater's birth. Such a celebration is rendered not only possible but
probable by the present state of the work, which it is the purpose of the
following pages to explain.


Age and beauty unite in claiming pre-eminence for this central
member of our system of Academic structures. A year ago only the sturdy
old brick walls were standing, proof in their honest strength against fire
and dynamite alike. To-day the dome is restored in its original
proportions--more graceful than those familiar to our eyes in recent
years--and of indestructible materials; the columns of the two porticos
are completed and crowned with capitals of Italian marble, ready for the
hand of the carver; the oval lecture halls in the basement and the old
terrace rooms are already occupied by classes; the library proper lacks for
completion little save its decorative finishing and furniture; the new
terrace rooms are under roof, and the connecting colonnades are
practically finished.

Several important modifications have been introduced into the plan
of the interior, as represented in the last volume of this annual. The inner
shell of the dome, shown there as springing from the circle of the
peristyle, has been thrown back to abut against the building wall,
restoring to the domed interior its full amplitude. The light iron rail of
the gallery has been replaced by an artificial stone parapet, and the piers
of this will serve as pedestals for a circle of lifesize statues (casts from
the antique) overlooking the space below. The domed ceiling is to be
plastered, painted a sky blue, and decorated with twelve soaring eagles in
white, their beaks and talons picked out in gold. The space between the
circle of eagles and the central light will be frescoed to represent
floating clouds, fading into the clear vision of the sky. The scheme of
decoration finally adopted was suggested by the use of the eagle in the
hall ceiling of Monticello, and by the kindness of its present owner the
model used for the design is a cast taken from that building.


Of this building the walls are completed, the wings are roofed in and
floored, the amphitheatre is built and the iron trusses, which are to carry
its roof, are just being hoisted into place. The auditorium and entrance
hall have been made completely fire-proof The floor of the latter is of
iron and concrete. The auditorium floor is of Gustavine tile work, and with
its semicircular tiers of seats, rising from the central stage, the room is
an exact reproduction of an old Roman amphitheatre. While it would be
impossible to complete the building before the end of the session, there
seems to be no reason why this apartment may not be so far finished as to
fit it for use in the public exercises of the Celebrations, and this is the
present expectation of the University authorities. The room will be, when
completed, a handsome and capacious audience hall, seating 1,500
persons, all within easy sight and sound of the stage. A large panel in the
rear of the stage has been designed to receive a full size copy of Raphael's
School of Athens, and it is hoped that some generous friend of the
University will restore this beautiful and familiar canvas. A copy by an
excellent artist may be secured for $2,500.


These buildings are in a still more advanced stage; walls, roofs, and
rough floors are finished, ceilings lathed, and both buildings almost ready
for the plasterers. It would be beyond the scope of this notice to give any
account of their design. But it may be permitted at least to say that for
amplitude, judicious arrangement, and thorough construction they will be
superior to any similar establishments in the South, and will have no need

to dread comparisons with any in America. Once thoroughly equipped, for
which a sum of about $15,000 should be expended in each building, they
will furnish to the students of this University facilities for instruction in
Physics, Mechanics, and Engineering as complete and modern as can be
found in any school.


The public buildings about the central quadrangle will be heated by
steam from the Boiler House, situated south of the Auditorium, and will be
ventilated by blowers placed in the several buildings and driven by
electric motors. The entire system of steam pipes has been laid down, the
walls of the Boiler House are completed, ready for the roof, and the boilers are in place, requiring only the construction of the brick setting
around them, and the erection of the chimney. In the Boiler House also are
to be the coal room, the forges and the foundries for instruction in
Mechanical Engineering. The completion of this building will require only a
few weeks.

An interesting accessory to the heating plant is furnished by the
pumps, which will be used to return the condensed steam to the boilers.
These will be also connected with the exterior water main, and the valves
are so designed that the pumps can be made to draw either from the return
flow pipes or from the outside main. Upon the simple opening of a bypass,
therefore, they will act as fire pumps and furnish a copious hose stream
in any building for the extinction of a fire.

Much attention has been paid in the design of all the new buildings to
safe-guards against future conflagrations The Rotunda is rebuilt fireproof
throughout, the dome of tiles, the floor of the library of tile construction
paved with mosaic, all the decorative work, inside and out, of cement, or
copper, or marble, the terrace roofs of iron and cement construction, and
all basement floors paved with granolithic. The Auditorium and the
entrance hall to the Academical Building will be in like manner of
fire-proof construction, and stand-pipes in both buildings connected with
the water-mains and the pumps will ensure prompt control of any fire
which may originate in their contents. The Boiler House also is completely
fire-proof. The wings of the Academical Building and the two Laboratories
could not be constructed of fire-proof materials for economic reasons. But
with slate roofs, copper cornices, ceilings plastered on wire lathing,
walls finished directly on the solid brick, partitions of De La Haye
fire-proof blocks, and heavy double floors of the so-called "slow burning"
construction (designed originally as a substitute for fire-proofing in the
New England cotton mills), with steam heat and no stoves or open fires,
and with means for the extinction of fire on hand in every building, there
seems little danger of another disastrous conflagration.


The plan of the Architects contemplates the ultimate abolition of the road now at the foot of the Lawn and its transference either to a
tunnel below the present site, or to the rear of the new buildings; the
substitution for this road of a terrace with a paved promenade connecting
the driveways on the East and West; the continuation of the colonnades on
the Lawn to a junction with those of the new terrace; and the completion
of the North entrance to the Rotunda by the construction of a garden or
shrubbery on the site of the old Annex, with steps leading out at the
Ramparts to the natural ground level below. No definite plans have as yet
been presented for these portions of the work, although it is greatly to be
desired that they should be carried out at once. They are not only
necessary for the completion of the scheme, but would add vastly to the
beauty and dignity of our academic architecture. Whether their present
execution is possible or desirable, in view of other urgent claims upon
their resources, it will be for the Visitors to decide. The new buildings
will have to be furnished, the Scientific departments damaged by the fire
should be provided with fitting equipment of apparatus and machinery, and
the Library has liens upon our available revenues, which it would be
suicidal for the University to ignore. The professional departments of
Medicine and of Law also, with patient insistence, ask long needed
extensions of their facilities for instruction. To reconcile and satisfy in
due measure all these just claims is the difficult task of the Board and to
their wisdom and fidelity the problem must be left.

The present situation has much in it, however, to sustain in the
breasts of all--students, professors and visitors--a cheerful courage.
Twelve months ago we gazed on a pile of blackened ruins. To-day we see
approaching completion a group of buildings such as the most sanguine
University man had not hoped to look upon within our generation. Whatever
our present inconveniences, we may feel assured that posterity will
applaud the wisdom which built largely and liberally and with regard for
and confidence in the future. These massive walls, this amplitude of space
and light, this simple and honest integrity of plan and of construction,
preach faith and hope, and should preach them to devout and believing
hearts. It is for us simply to employ with vigor and intelligence, the
means within our grasp. The spirit which dictates this policy is at once
the best foundation for future growth, and the best augury of future

"Non possidentem multa vocaveris
Recte beatum; rectius occupat
Nomen beati, qui deorum
Muneribus sapienter uti."

April 2, 1897.