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Five Quirks Around Grounds

1. The Rotunda’s bulletproof clock face

Replaced after the 1895 fire, the face was designed to be bulletproof because students had used the original clock face for target practice.

The original Rotunda clock face in 1892 (top); it was replaced with a bulletproof design after the 1895 fire Top photo courtesy of Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections

2. Brooks Hall

The building’s plans were not intended for Princeton or any other school, as the myth goes. Instead, funding for the sore thumb on Grounds was given as a gift by a New York textile magnate who had no affiliation with UVA. He also provided the building plans, which are thought to have been inspired by university buildings commonly found in the North.

Brooks Hall

3. The Dell

The remains of the teahouses that once stood on this property on Emmet Street can still be found around the duck pond next to Lambeth House. They were built by William A. Lambeth, a former superintendent of buildings and professor, who placed the teahouses overlooking ornamental gardens he had planted on the property. Later the Dell held a six-hole golf course, picnic area and pond large enough to support fishing and boating. The pond’s stream sources were dammed and piped underground when Emmet Street was widened in the 1930s, and much of the land became a swamp. The University reopened the pond’s source in a plan first introduced in 1999.

4. Hume Fountain

The Whispering Wall, as it is called, amplifies sound so that even whispers carry from one part of the curved wall to the other.

The Whispering Wall at Hume Fountain

5. Varsity Hall

Constructed in 1858 at a cost of $7,500, Varsity Hall is believed to be the country’s first infirmary built specifically to serve a college. Opened after a typhoid outbreak killed 19 and shut down the University for a month, the building was repurposed when the UVA hospital was built in the early 1900s. Since then, it has been home to a fraternity, nursing student dorm rooms, the Air Force ROTC and the Batten School. In 2005, Varsity Hall was spared the wrecking ball and was moved 185 feet to make room for the Rouss Hall expansion. The move of this 600-ton building was featured on the program Mega Moves on the Discovery Channel and TLC.