Debating Change

It was with great regret that I read of plans to “preserve” Mr. Jefferson’s original intentions for Pavilion X (“This Old Academical Village,” Spring 2009). This is abominable on several fronts, not the least of which is its utter violation of the great horizon-expanding agrarian aesthetic Jefferson so beautifully masters throughout his career. If the preservationists invoke “intentions” to trump “status quo,” then what of the constant flux of remodeling which had—in Jefferson’s lifetime—reduced Monticello to a perpetual experiment in trial and error?

If UVA is indeed set on doing this, when can I start picketing the site?

Chris Morris (Arch ’75)
Armonk, N.Y.


I appreciated all the explanation behind the historic preservation process. I can’t help but wonder if the switch to non-white columns will be viewed positively. Monticello has sandy-colored columns but only on one side of the house, despite that color being the historically accurate one. That limited application suggests people are much attached to white columns.

Nancy Staub (Col ’87)
Beaumont, Texas


In the recent story “This Old Academical Village,” I saw proposed changes to Pavilion X and to the Lawn in general that merit comment. Adding an attic on Pavilion X, repainting the shutters and [refinishing] the columns are all efforts by earnest preservationists to do what they think best.

However, their opinion is distorted by their scholarship. In the world of the preservationist, the oldest or most original form of a thing is its truest expression. But most of us who love the University are not preservationists. We have a blend within us—a mix of historical appreciation combined with the authenticity of our own experience.

I went to a University with gleaming white columns and green-black shutters, and a Pavilion X whose peaked roof pointed to the sky. It did not have a garish top-heavy addition. If that attic was once there, someone with fine judgment removed it.

Balancing history and progress is difficult, and I appreciate the earnest and well-intentioned debate. For all I know, the preservationists may be correct that the columns used to be tan and the shutters light green. Perhaps Mr. Jefferson chose those colors, and perhaps he built an ugly attic on Pavilion X. I have great reverence for Mr. Jefferson—his portrait hangs in my living room—but I’m not such an idolater that I think him infallible.

If Mr. Jefferson did make those architectural choices, they are among his rarest treasures—mistakes. And I do not fear his errors so long as our reason is left free to combat them.

Adam R. Olenn (Col ’95)
Boston, Mass.


Thank you for the historical view of how things actually were when Jefferson designed and built the University Village. I am not sure how I will like the sandy-colored columns. If that is the original color and we are trying to maintain the village as it was originally, then we shall have to get used to seeing it that way. The whole article was most enlightening.

Frieda Byrd (Nurs ’57)
Macon, Ga.


I was delighted to hear about the reconstruction of the parapets, a move for which I have been waiting since the early 1980s, when I was a student. Pavilion X is not the only one missing its hat—the proposed rendering for which I think is tremendous—and I look forward to the ultimate restoration of the parapets on Pavilions V, VIII and IX.

David Stutzman (Col ’85, Law ’88)
New York, N.Y.


If we are going to restore the dome of the Rotunda, it should be restored as nearly as possible to what Jefferson intended. I think we have ample evidence of his intentions in the papers and drawings he left us. The Rotunda is the building most identified with Jefferson, so if we are going to “restore” it, what possible argument could be made for restoring it to anything but what Jefferson intended? As far as the white columns go, this was an unfortunate change made for convenience of maintenance rather than fidelity to Jefferson’s vision. He had a correspondence with Latrobe until Latrobe’s death in 1820, and the idea of color for the columns was discussed. If I recall correctly, it was Latrobe who pointed out that white would clash with nature too much and be too harsh, and that the sandy color would be more sympathetic with the natural surroundings. Let us not ever forget that Jefferson intended this to be his lasting gift to the new nation he helped to launch, and that he launched this construction project in the company of two other presidents of the United States. It is this heritage we wish to preserve, remember and venerate.

James B. Kiracofe (Col ’75, Grad ’90)
Free Union, Va.


I was rather disappointed with your Spring 2009 article (“This Old Academical Village”). While acknowledging only marginally the preservation efforts done by previous individuals at the Academical Village, such as the late James Murray Howard, you focus disproportionately on current efforts and fail to reprise the enormous efforts to date.

While preservation of the Academical Village is a noble cause, I perceive a contradiction in the current preservation philosophy, imbuing Jeffersonian purity in some buildings and disregarding it in others.

For instance, the decision to replicate the original parapet on Pavilion X is interesting, but the evidence to support its re-creation is lacking. The existing roof framing clearly shows the earlier existence of the parapet; however, what the parapet actually looked like can only be derived from drawings and renderings. On the other hand, the arguments surrounding which dome to restore were comical. More evidence exists describing the original appearance of the dome than exists for Pavilion X’s parapet; that seems to be of little regard when given the chance to restore Stanford White’s dome that reconfigured back to the Jeffersonian profile in the 1976 restoration.

Steven D. Cornell (Arch ’05)
Salt Lake City, Utah

Space restraints in the previous issue did not allow publication of this historical image, which shows Pavilion X’s attic parapet before its removal in the 1890s. —Ed.

As a resident of 16E during the school year 1959-60, I grew to love the Lawn in a way I don’t think you can through any other experience. It even stirs fond memories of the trips to the shower on cold January days.

I applaud the thought of restoring the buildings to good repair and as close to Jefferson’s ideas as possible, but it is hard for me to believe that they include the parapet [on Pavilion X]. I think it takes away the beauty of that pavilion, gets it out of shape and I would guess if Mr. Jefferson were to see it today he would say that’s no longer the place to learn your architecture.

Henry A. Drake (Com ’60, GSBA ’62)
Birmingham, Ala.

Life on the Lawn

When the tours swelled with admitted applicants and prospective students, it was a frequent occurrence to step out, in a bathrobe, into hundreds of new friends gathered outside my Lawn room. I think the U Guides looked for opportunities to have a “Lawnie in robe” on display. Kind of like the bear that does tricks for the visitors at the San Diego Zoo.

Thanks for the article (“Open Door Policy,” Spring 2009) and the memories.

Tom Taylor (Engr ’82)
Wellesley, Mass.

A few of us have started a Facebook group called “The Lawn, Chowder & Marching Society of the University of Virginia.” The intent is to have a virtual gathering spot for all people who were fortunate enough to have spent time on the Lawn or on the Range. Who knows, Edgar Allan Poe might have joined (and, if his writings are any clue, may yet). The group is open to any and all who want to join and to share their memories of the Lawn.

Hope to see you there.
Phil Chen (Engr ’68)
Maplewood, N.J.

In Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness (“The Psychology of Happiness,” Spring 2009) is a matter of wanting what you get as opposed to success, which is getting what you want. In my mind, it is infinitely better to be happy. No reason to attempt to exercise controls that we simply do not possess.

Richard Harrison (Parent)
Reston, Va.

I read the article by Gina Welch with some interest—to learn what I could possible add to my life to get more happiness. Not that I am perpetually unhappy—my definition of happiness runs more toward contentment in life. Certain experiences we go though in life may not be viewed as happy at the time but can be enjoyed years later.

Some of my experiences had to have been during my UVA time. I would spend weekends traveling up U.S. 29 to see Washington, D.C., along the Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge and along Route 60 to West Virginia.

Lest you think I viewed my UVA time as simply a time to travel, there were some professors that have stayed with me for 37 years, most notably Norman Graebner’s diplomatic history class. His classes always started in a conventional classroom but ended up in an auditorium, as so many wanted to sign up and he had a good heart. I went back to my 20-year reunion to see Professor Graebner, and in that old auditorium were a couple of hundred of us. I could see the good professor’s eyes glisten from tears of his own happiness that we all remembered.

I look back on those days as some of the happiest of my life. Happiness is what you make of it.

William Brandt (Col ’72)
Sacramento, Calif.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

In the Winter 2008 issue, I read with great interest the “Home Sweet Home” article about the new Kellogg House dormitory on Observatory Hill. It is debatable as to whether a series of new dorms are needed while tearing down the still-functional Alderman Road dorms, one of which I lived in for the 2000-01 school year. However, I understand that for colleges to be competitive in attracting students these days, they need to build these palatial dorms, student union buildings and athletic facilities. That aside, what was really so disheartening about this Kellogg House project was the apparent lack of environmental considerations that went into the design and construction. The article mentions that “Although not a ‘green’ building . . . Kellogg House does have some sustainable features” and then lists three of the least expensive features available with relatively low impact. What about solar energy panels, water reclamation and efficiency, or local and recycled construction materials? While LEED certification is not the only consideration, it is time that the University of Virginia step up and take a leading role in environmental sustainability among large universities.

Jonathan Richardson (Col ’04)
New Haven, Conn.

More Faulkner Memories

Ray Askew’s letter (Spring 2009) regarding the kindness and interest shown by William Faulkner toward students during his stay at the University in 1957 (and 1958) rings true to me. In February 1958, while a graduate student living in Peters Hall, I decided one wintry day to do something about the snow accumulated on the stairs down the side of the steep hill leading to the diner across the street. As I shoveled snow off the steps, someone greeted me from behind. “Nice work, son!” the distinguished-looking gentleman said to me as he passed me on his way up the now snow-free steps to the University buildings. Then I realized I had been praised for my social consciousness by none other than William Faulkner. The incident formed an everlasting impression of Faulkner for me.

William H. Bartsch (Grad ’59)
Reston, Va.

I enjoyed the letter concerning William Faulkner in the Spring 2009 issue of Virginia Magazine.

My wife and I attended the University for an academic year (1959-60) and the summer term. Our son was in the third grade and our daughter was 5 years old. Our kids loved to go to the track meets and baseball games since our son got to be the bat boy for quite a few games. William Faulkner was quite often seen at Lambeth Field wearing his chest ribbon that said “Honorary Judge.”

When Mr. Faulkner died, there was a write-up in our local paper about his life and a photo of him. Our kids saw that, got quite excited and exclaimed, “That’s the man that showed us how to use a stopwatch.” They are in their 50s now but still have fond memories of Faulkner as the kind man who showed them how to use a stopwatch.

Bill McFarland (Educ ’60)
Loyall, Ky.

Shadowy Figure

I know that Edgar Allan Poe (“Shedding Light on a Shadowy Figure” Spring 2009) was a big gambler because we had a poker IOU made out to my great-uncle, George Sommers, who lived near Poe on the Range.

James B. Sommers (Col ’62, GSBA ’64)
Boynton Beach, Fla.


Looking over the latest magazine and the letters section (“Poe Room” Spring 2009) reminded me of another crow that frequented the Alderman Library area in the mid-1960s. This rather large bird had a band on one leg with the name POE; he was obviously tame and was very fond of sweets. The story was that he belonged to one of the professors. Crows live a fairly long time, I believe, but when I returned to Charlottesville in the 1990s, no one seemed to remember “Poe.” He was a clever bird and would threaten to peck the ladies’ ankles if they didn’t supply bits of breakfast doughnuts immediately.

Can anyone tell me what happened to Poe?

Dorothy Potter (Grad ’66, ’00)
Lynchburg, Va.