Thinking about Jefferson

Just finished reading Mr. Jefferson’s University (along with its other virtues, it’s mercifully short). Wills makes the case, which is well known to all aficionados of the history of the University except those who graduated from it, that the buildings of the original Grounds did not spring fully formed from Jefferson’s mind but were substantially influenced by the work of others. In particular, Wills calls out the work of Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the US Capitol Building, who was said to have provided Jefferson with a folio of elevations for the pavilions of the University. Wills makes the case that, even if the façades were Latrobe’s design, Jefferson’s genius was in the original vision and the adaptation of the architectural ideals of Palladio (and one supposes Latrobe) to the realities of the hillside site.

Reading the book made me homesick. I went back to the Holsinger Archives at Virginia’s library web site for a UVA fix. Nothing like a little hundred-year-old photography to realize the enduring character of Jefferson’s vision.