Thomas Jefferson’s Anatomical Theatre UVA Alumni Association Photo Archives

Thomas Jefferson designed the Anatomical Theatre in 1825, shortly before his death the following year. When Dr. Robley Dunglison—who had just been hired as the first full-time professor of medicine at an American university—arrived at his new home, Pavilion X, he told Jefferson that the front room of the residence was an unacceptable venue for dissecting cadavers. A new building, which included a tiered amphitheatre for observing dissections, was Jefferson’s response to Dunglison’s complaint.

Burned in 1886, it was restored and used by faculty and medical students to treat patients. After the building was condemned in 1924, it was reconditioned and housed the now-defunct School of Rural Social Economics.

For a brief period, the Anatomical Theatre stood in front of Alderman Library, but its days were numbered once the library was completed in 1938. Although the structure is the only Jefferson-designed building on Grounds to be torn down, vestiges live on. After the building was demolished in 1939, its bricks were salvaged and reused to make repairs to the serpentine walls and other original Jeffersonian buildings.

Surgeons perform an operation in the Anatomical Theatre in 1910. Courtesy of Special Collections, UVA Library