Tom's Uni, VA

Rex's USA Diary

The Uni That Tom Built

Richmond is the capital town of the State of Virginia - Charlottesville is its historic heart. It would be hard to visit this town without coming across some mention of Tom. Tom the Builder, Tom the Thinker, Tom the Architect and Tom the Statesman. Tom being well known to every American as Thomas Jefferson.

It seems that if you say that you have been to Charlottesville, people immediately ask 'What did you think of Monticello?' to which my reply is that the three of us in the car had a vote between either visiting Monticello or the University and we chose the University. Monticello is Tom's home and final resting place. The University of Virginia he designed, located, created and staffed. It is one of his ongoing legacy's to the town, state and country.

Romanesque columns and bowl

He must have been going through a Romanesque phase at the time, because there is more than a hint of the coliseum to its open air bowl which faces one multi-columned building. In fact, the place abounds with columns - which I think are Corinthian but will accept alternative suggestions for. The grounds feature large expanses of lawn, shade trees, tidy brick buildings and more columns than you can shake a stick at.

Arches abound here

And arches of course - Tom's Uni has plenty of those too. We browsed around the grounds at a time about a week before the start of a term at the end of the summer break. It was still hot and sticky, so the trees and sheltered walks beside the lawns provided us with welcome cooling shadiness.

Shady tree lined grounds

I could see that wearing ones morning coat and wig might even be bearable then - certainly it would have been a trial to be overdressed out in the heat of summer.

Looking for room 13.

Along the sides of the main lawn courtyard were student dormitories. I guess that some of the modern tower blocks outside this historic area also provide student accommodation so it was nice to see the old rooms still in use. Edgar Allan Poe had one of these - Number 13 - until he was forced to quit it when his stepfather cut off his money supply because he kept gambling it away.

The quadrangle rotunda

The key building at the head of the quadrangle is the rotunda. Tom had wanted a planetarium in the Dome Room, but got instead an ocular skylight. The design of the rotunda is based on the pantheon and houses (housed?) the Uni library and classrooms.

Pleasant green lawns abound.

Having seen Tom's Uni, my curiosity has been aroused and I am keen to have a look at Monticello sometime. Good reason for another visit to this beautifully green and rolling countryside.

The University of Virginia's web site is here if you want to have a browse.

Thomas Jefferson's back story is also worth checking out.