Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jefferson’s Other Revolution

I watched a program on Jefferson’s architectural revolution. While Monticello is talked about all the time, this covered three other major architectural undertakings of Jefferson’s. Jefferson was a self-taught architect, yet he was one of the best America ever produced. He is the only architect with TWO buildings on the UN’s Heritage list (Monticello and the University of Virginia).
  1. The Virginia State Capitol Building
    Jefferson was Governor of Virginia at one time (during the Revolution) and asked to design the State Capitol building in Richmond (as Governor, he actually moved the Virginia state capital from Williamsburg to Richmond to better protect it from the British Navy). He took ideas he got while in France as the US Minister to construct this building. It was completed in 1798 and is the second oldest state capitol building still in use (behind Maryland). The building was added on to in the 1904-06 and was recently (2006) renovated, trying to keep the original integrity of the Jeffersonian building.
  2. Poplar Forest

  3. Poplar Forest This plantation, owned by Jefferson, was 90 miles from Monticello and was his private retreat. He kept it secret so he could escape all his visitors when he needed to. Before there was a building there, during the Revolution, he hid from the British in its overseer’s cabin. He started the house there in 1806 and would go there with just one servant and sometimes his granddaughters. He would go there 2-4 times a year, usually for 2 months. The house was the first octagonal house in the US and had a huge skylight. He also put in a portico, which was a deck of sorts and was another architectural innovation – the idea of bringing the outdoors into the house. In 1984, it was bought by a private organization to restore it a as a museum and they are predicting it will be finished in 2016.

  4. University of Virginia
    In 1814, Jefferson was asked to design the new University of Virginia. It was a new idea – a state higher education institution and it would allow students to specialize. The campus’s heart was a library – not a chapel – another innovation. It included 10 buildings – one per discipline and each was different architecturally. Each professor lived with their subject and between the buildings were student dorms.
This was a very interesting program and well worth the time to watch!

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