The Rotunda (University of Virginia)

The Rotunda (University of Virginia)

Infobox_nrhp | name =Rotunda, University of Virginia
nrhp_type = nhl

caption = The Rotunda
location= Charlottesville, Virginia
lat_degrees = 38
lat_minutes = 1
lat_seconds = 57
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 78
long_minutes = 30
long_seconds = 19
long_direction = W
locmapin = Virginia
area =
built =1822
architect= Thomas Jefferson; Stanford White
architecture= Early Republic
designated= December 21, 1965cite web|url=
title=Rotunda, University of Virginia|accessdate=2008-06-27|work=National Historic Landmark summary listing|publisher=National Park Service
added = October 15, 1966
governing_body = State
refnum=66000937cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2008-04-15|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]

The Rotunda is a building located on the grounds of the University of Virginia. It was designed by Thomas Jefferson to represent the "authority of nature and power of reason" and was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Construction began in 1822 and was completed in 1826, after his death. The grounds of the new university were unique in that they surrounded a library housed in the Rotunda rather than a church, as was common at other universities in the English-speaking world. The Rotunda is seen as a lasting symbol of Jefferson's belief in the separation of church and education, as well as his lifelong dedication to both education and architecture.

The original construction cost of the Rotunda was $57,773 ($992,792 in 2006 dollars). The building stands 77 feet (23.5 m) in both height and diameter.

The Marquis de Lafayette and James Madison dined with Thomas Jefferson in the Dome Room of the unfinished Rotunda at the University's inaugural banquet, and Lafayette toasted Jefferson as the "Father of the University of Virginia". This brought Jefferson to tears, and he later had the phrase inscribed on his grave. A bust of Lafayette was given to the University in 1904 by the Government of France to honor the friendship between the two men. Today it stands in the North Oval Room.

The University being the first at which students could specialize in the field of Astronomy, Jefferson toyed with the idea of painting the interior of the Dome Room with images of the night sky to aid the students in their learning. He went so far as to begin designing a new mechanism with which students would be able to "float" through the air and study heavenly bodies from closer different viewpoints. They would also be equipped with a control to move the stars around the Dome. The idea was eventually abandoned but would have been the first planetarium in the United States. The Transit of Venus of 1882 was observed from the steps of the Rotunda, in a coordinated effort with McCormick Observatory.

A structure called the Annex, also known as "New Hall," was added to the north side of the Rotunda in 1853 to provide additional classroom space needed due to overcrowding.cite web
title=So You Want to Be a UGuide?
] (A rare photograph of the Annex may be viewed at the University of Virginia's online visual history collection.cite web
title=Rotunda Annex
work=University of Virginia Visual History Collection
year=before 1895
] )

In 1895, the Rotunda famously burnt to the ground.cite web
title=Arise and Build!: A Centennial Commemoration of the 1895 Rotunda Fire
] University students saved what was, for them, the most important item within the Rotunda — a life-size likeness of Mr. Jefferson carved from marble that was given to the University by Alexander Galt in 1861; the students also rescued a portion of the books of the University library from the dome room, as well as various scientific instruments from the classrooms in the Annex. Shortly after the fire, the faculty drew up a recommendation to the Board of Visitors, recommending a program of rebuilding that called for the reconstruction of the Rotunda and the replacement of the lost classroom space of the Annex with a set of buildings at the south end of the Lawn.cite book
title=History of the University of Virginia, 1819-1919: The Lengthened Shadow of One Man
first=Philip Alexander
authorlink=Philip Alexander Bruce
location=New York
] In the new design, the wooden dome was replaced with a fireproof tile dome by the Guastavino Company of New York in 1898-1899. The Rotunda was rebuilt with a modified design by Stanford White, a nationally known architect and head of a firm in New York City. Whereas Jefferson's Rotunda had three floors, White's had only two, but a larger Dome Room. In addition, the Annex was not rebuilt. In 1976 during America's Bicentennial, the Rotunda was restored, at a cost of $2.4 million, to Jefferson's original design. The Rotunda is the symbolic head of The Lawn and the University of Virginia. The Academical Village of which it is a part is one of only four man-made sites in the United States to be named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (along with the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and Pueblo de Taos).

Today, graduate students defend their theses in the north oval room and many events are hosted on the steps of the Rotunda. It is also the traditional starting point for students streaking the Lawn.

There is a plaque, on the south side of the Rotunda, listing the names of students and graduates of The University who were killed during the Civil War. Other plaques on the south side list those killed during World War I while plaques on the north side list those killed in World War II and the Korean War.

Both Dallas Hall at Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Grawemeyer Hall at the University of Louisville were modeled after Jefferson's Rotunda.

External links

* [ Live webcam]
* [ UVa's Rotunda web page]
* [ Academical Village map]
* [ Tales in the Rotunda's Past] (includes cow on the roof)


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