As the University of Virginia’s chief historian walked along the iconic campus Lawn one day years ago, he overheard a student tour guide explain the history of the Romance Pavilion: It was once home to a 19th-century professor and his beautiful daughter, who fell in love with a student whom her parents deemed unsuitable. She pined away for him and eventually died of a broken heart. Her spirit still haunts the pavilion.
No, no, no, Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam Jr. remembers thinking. It’s called the Romance Pavilion because Romance languages were once taught there.
“I took French there,” said Gilliam, 78, who graduated from UVA in 1955 with a history degree, returned in 1975 for a job and stuck around. Gilliam asked the head of the student guides to stop by his office — and to bring a yellow tablet and pencil to take notes.