Thursday, April 6, 2017


If you are familiar with college logos, you will recognize that the rotunda building shown in this photo, is an integral part of the marketing brand of the University of Virginia ( ).   Because of its distinctive architecture, the University of Virginia (along with the Thomas Jefferson-designed Monticello) has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It is the only collegiate location so recognized.

The rotunda is flanked on both the east and west sides with a long succession of red brick buildings, called the East Range and West Range.

The inside of the rotunda is three stories, and this photo shows the symmetrical stairways leading to the top floor.  I was touring the campus with these folks, as a part of a week-long Road Scholar ( ) program being held in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is the location of the University of Virginia. 

This photo of me in front of the Rotunda gives an idea of the spaciousness and openness, of this part of the campus.  It is said that Road Scholar programs are for "students of life-long learning", so perhaps now I can truthfully say, "I studied at the University of Virginia"!

Students much more famous and talented than I,  have attended the University of Virginia.  This plaque above the door of West Range Room #13 pays tribute to famous poet Edgar Allen Poe, who lived here the same year of Thomas Jefferson's death.

The University of Virginia Raven Society (named after Poe's most famous poem) continues to maintain #13 West Range, the room Poe inhabited during the single semester he attended the university. 

There are placards around the campus (as well as a phone app), for people who want to learn about the history of the campus, and do not have the benefit of a very knowledgeable Road Scholar guide to give them a tour.

One item our guide had told us to keep an eye out for, was what he called a "Bathrobe Alert".  He went on to explain that 54 students are selected to live on The Lawn during their final year.  It is considered a great honor to be invited to live on The Lawn, and these 54 students join ten members of the faculty, who permanently live and teach in the Pavilions there.  The drawback to being selected for this honor, is that the student housing on The Lawn does not have any shower or bathroom facilities.  Thus these students are often seen in their robes, going and coming from the group restrooms.  And sure enough, we encountered a fourth-year student in his bath robe!

The interior of The Rotunda has been updated to make it more user friendly for today's high-tech students. 

Although a chapel was not originally part of Jefferson's plan for his "Academical Village", one was added after his death.  The Chapel was built in 1889, on the east side of The Rotunda.  It was designed by Charles Cassell, who had been a University of Virginia student.  Since Cassell had been a student at the U of V, perhaps he knew of its history of brawling and rioting, including the murder of the Chairman of the Faculty in 1840.  With this in mind, plus a rise in religious affiliation in society in general, it became apparent that ignoring the spiritual development of students, was not the utopia Jefferson had envisioned. 

This photo, taken on the south end of The Lawn, shows the wide , grassy terraces that separate the 5 pavilions on the West Range, from the 5 pavilions on the East Range.  These residential and academic buildings had walled gardens behind them, and the larger campus extends beyond them.  The pavilions are all different, and provide examples of various types of classical architecture.

One can only speculate if the busy schedules of today's students and faculty, allow for much front-porch rocking chair time.  While I was there, I did not see anyone using these, although it would have made a great photo caption for someone in our group---"Rockin' out at the University of Virginia"!

This closeup of one entrance gives you a clue to their Texas heritage, and also to the fact that the residences still contain WORKING fireplaces! 

The south end of The Lawn has now been enclosed by more campus buildings, which is another change from what Jefferson imagined.  He wanted The South Lawn to look out over beautiful cultivated fields, with the mountains in the background.  Now the campus is essentially a "quadrangle" instead of an open "U" shape. 

Unlike the open-to-the-sky rotunda I visited at the Vicksburg Military Park, the top of the U of V rotunda is made of glass.  It is half the width and height of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building.  Jefferson wanted The Rotunda to symbolize knowledge, and show its hierarchy.  It was to be the "Temple of Knowledge" and house the university library. 

The bottom floor of The Rotunda leads through this series of arches, and onto the other parts of the campus. 

This photo shows the "Jeffersonian Serpentine Walls".  The walls are called serpentine because they run a sinusoidal course, one that lends strength to the wall and allows for the wall to be only one brick thick.  Our guide told us the design also creates a type of "micro climate" in the indentations, leading to some unexpected growing conditions for decorative plants. 
This symbol of a Christian cross on top of the chapel, is a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse from LAMENTATIONS 3:24 that says, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."  It is said that Thomas Jefferson was very troubled, and LAMENTED, over the disruptive behavior of those first groups of students.  This fact was verified by a letter one of our Road Scholar participants had, that had been written by her great, great, great grandfather, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the college.  He also had this LAMENT: "Among the reminiscences of the time of which I am speaking, come that of my having been an irreligious youth; but for many long years I have been rejoicing in the Christian's hope of immortality and eternal life."  (signed) Burwell Starke   Likewise, when I attended my high school 50-year reunion, there were several who LAMENTED over the behavior of our "irreligious youth"!   But now we no longer need to LAMENT, rather we can celebrate our faith in Jesus Christ!  This is a promise that gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!

Author's Addendum:  Although I had the blessing of being a fellow Road Scholar student with a direct descendant of Burwell Starke (who gave me a copy of his "reminiscences article"), it is available to all on line at   .   It was published in the 1924 University of Virginia Alumni Bulletin, under the title of "Reminiscences of Burwell Starke, 1884".   It is said that he is THE VERY FIRST person, whose name is on the roll,  as a student at the University of Virginia! One can also see his black/white portrait in the University of Virginia Visual History Collection at