IT IS difficult to tell what may have been Jefferson's original ideas as to
the completion of the buildings of the University of Virginia,but he must
have contemplated some finish at the north end similar to that now
adopted, and the completion of the College Lawn in its present form is an
endeavor to follow out the original scheme as far as possible.

In restoring the Rotunda--that part of Jefferson's work which was
destroyed by fire--only one deviation from the original plan has been made,
but this is one which Jefferson would unquestionably have adopted
himself had he been able to do so when the Rotunda was built, and one
which he would have himself insisted upon still more could he have
directed the restoration. He was forced at the time the Rotunda was
designed, for utilitarian reasons, to divide it into two floors, with great
loss to the singleness, dignity, and proportions of the interior. In the
upper room the proportion in height of the dome to that of the side walls
was necessarily too great. As far as it was possible with due
consideration to tho requirements of the Library, the design and character
of the old Jefferson room has been reproduced in the new. It was evidently
Jefferson's intention to build a portico at the north end of the Rotunda,
and in the restoration this new portico was added, and a great flight of
steps carried down to the terrace and then to the road, with a happy and
dignified result. The southerly terrace of the Rotunda was repeated on the
northerly side, to give support to the portico, and these two terraces were
connected by open colonnades forming two interior courts. The Rotunda as
now reconstructed is thoroughly fire-proof, as is also the entire floor of
the auditorium of the Academical building.

The carrying out of the quadrangle in the simple style and character
of the old buildings, with their extreme modesty of height, was a very
difficult problem, and was rendered much more difficult by modern
academical requirements, especially that of the academical theatre, with
its seating capacity of nearly 3000. To have built so large a building above
the ground level would have crushed the Rotunda and entirely done away
with the charm of the old University Lawn. The grade of the land, however,
happily permitted a solution of this difficulty. The green gently drops
down to its present finish, and to the eye the new line of buildings is of
but slightly more importance in height and character than the old
buildings surrounding the old Lawn. This has been accomplished by grading
and by a tremendous fill of earth--nearly thirty feet in height--at the end
of the Lawn. The new buildings only count as one story high from the inner
side of the Lawn, but are two, and even three, stories high on their outer
faces, these stories descending instead of ascending. There remains still
much to be done to perfect the scheme, the arcades have still to be added
to the quadrangle, the dome and all the stucco work painted white [1], and
there are various little perfecting touches still lacking throughout.

As a rule, any attempt in works of science and art by those not
especially trained and educated to these ends (that is, by laymen or
amateurs) has resulted, as it must necessarily result, in failure; but
Jefferson was unquestionably one of the most many sided of geniuses. He
was a shining example of intelligence and culture, and it is owing to these
qualities that the University of Virginia has such an exquisite group of
collegiate buildings, which in their singleness are unique in the world.
Jefferson would unquestionably have made a great architect. In whatever
work with which he was connected, his powerful and controlling mind is
evident; and that he possessed a creative and designing faculty, both
Monticello and the University give full evidence. It was fortunate,
however, that architecture had reached such a point at this time, that any
attempt at originality in detail by one trained, still less by one untrained,
in the profession, was almost out of the question. The progress of the
Renaissance had, under Louis XVI. and the Georges, and more intensely
under Napoleon, gradually assumed a strictly classic character; all detail
was, in a great measure, simply reproduction of the antique; books were
extant then which gave these details in almost as great perfection as they
can be found to-day; and Jefferson was thus enabled to select for use on
the University buildings classical detail which the world has, and always
will approve as supremely beautiful. Nevertheless, there is no sign of
slavish imitation or copying in the University, everything has been simply
and appropriately applied to the modest character of the buildings, and,
although it cannot but be regretted that it was not possible to use marble
where wood and stucco, painted white, take its place, yet, as the use of
marble was necessarily impossible, the mind, reverting to the period when
the buildings were erected, forgives the homely substitute in delight at
the charming result.

If the new buildings are successful, it is mainly due to the fact that
the architects have rigidly endeavored to carry out and complete the
original scheme as laid down by Jefferson, and that in doing so, the work
has been to them a work of love, but one, however, which could not have
been possible without the hearty and sympathetic co-operation of the
Rector, Jefferson's descendant; of the Building and Executive Committees,
and of the Board of Visitors. The State of Virginia may well feel that in
the graceful proportions of the Rotunda and of the old buildings, in the
gleaming white colonnades with their classic temples embowered in
avenues of trees, and in its beautiful College lawn under its soft skies,
that it possesses, if not the finest, or richest, or most imposing, at least
the most exquisite and perfect group of collegiate buildings in the world.


[1].This has been done since this article was written.