The Diary of Henry Marshall

Extracts from the diary of Henry Marshall written during the year 1824, while on a hiking trip from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to his home in Society Hill, South Carolina. This is the earliest description of the University by an outsider


Saturday, Oct. 30.

Started at 1/2 past 6 & breakfasted after walking 10 miles. I saw ice in the road this morning. The weather has been so cold for two or three mornings past that I have deferred my hour of departure from 6 to 1/2 past 6. I reached Charlottesville 20 miles from Brown's at 2 o'clock. The country very broken. The soil appears to be naturally good, but it soon washes off to the red clay. Charlottesville is a neat little town of brick 1/2 a mile south of the Rivanna & 2 miles west of the South west mountain. Population I should judge to be about 2000. 3/4 of a mile west of the town are the buildings of central college. These consist of a rotunda 10 professors houses 220 rooms for students & 5 hotels to be rented out. The buildings cover a space 6 or 700 feet square.

[Here follows a sketch of the groundplan of the University by the author]

The rotunda at the head of the square looks south or perhaps a little west of south. The dots in the two inner lines represent the professors houses two stories high besides the kitchen cellar between them are the dormitories for the students one story high & each room opening into the college yard. The space between the two interior lines 200 ft. wide is the college yard. The dots in the outward lines are the hotels and between them are the dormitories. The space between the professors houses and the hotels is intended for gardens, with passages leading down between them. The walls about the place are serpentine & only one brick thick. Each professors house has a recitation room the chambers of the students are 14 feet square (too small). A kind of piazza or covered way supported by brick pillars covered with mortar runs along in front of all the professors houses & dormitories. On the top of the covered way & dormitories is a terrace. The piazza of the outward rows of dormitories is supported by brick arches. The professors houses are elegantly built but no two of them exactly alike. Several have porticos supported by large brick pillars covered with mortar. The top pieces of the pillars of two houses are of marble elegantly sculptured in Italy. The rotunda is said to be modelled after the Pantheon at Rome. It is 75 ft. in diameter and about 80 ft. or more from the ground to the top of the dome. It has a portico fronting toward the college yard. On the ground floor are two elliptical rooms 50 to 60 by 30 ft. (guess) and one much smaller. There is the same arrangement in the second floor. The 3 story with the dome is all in one. From the college yard you go up steps the whole breadth of the portico directly into the second story from the lower story is a covered way and terrace to the dormitories. The rotunda is decidedly the most elegantly proportioned building I ever saw. It is the only public building I have seen in this country that is high enough. The professors houses are elegant specimens of architecture. On the whole I think they are the most tasteful & elegant buildings in the U.S. I had no idea of their extent & splendour. The buildings are on a gentle elevation sloping down from the rotunda in front & the professors houses to the outer rows on each side. Between the professors houses are passages into a back yard with a pump in each. From this yard there is a road between the gardens down through the outer rows of dormitories. Waggons need not come in the front yard at all. Where these roads go through the outer rows of dormitories there are also small back yards with pumps in each. Everything is so elegantly finished that the building make a handsome appearance from the village although you look at them in the rear.

Monticello the residence of Mr. Jefferson is a low peak in the range of mountains called the South west Mts. They seem to be a continuation of the Cotoctin range & run south nearly to the James River. The knolls get lower and lower the nearer they approach the Rivanna. Monticello is the lowest and nearest the river on the south side. It is 2 miles east of Charlottesville. Strangers are in the habit of going to Monticello & telling Mr. Jefferson that they wish to see him & his house. A servant is according directed to shew him the house the house is of brick. Charlottesville is 80 miles from Richmond.

Sunday Oct 31st.

I left Charlottesville a little after 6 this morning & reached Nelson Courthouse a distance of 36 miles a little after 6 in the evening. I breakfasted 7 miles from Charlottesville which detained me an hour & then walked the remaining 29 miles without eating or drinking.