Chances are, when Mr. Jefferson set forth his plans for an Academical Village, he didn’t envision wildlife moving in alongside faculty or masses of shrieking streakers providing the soundtrack for the verdant Lawn. And yet, step beyond the stately brick exteriors of the pavilions, and the walls spill over with many such colorful tales.
Come along as we explore each of the 10 pavilions and some of their storied pasts, with a helping hand from Alexander G. “Sandy” Gilliam Jr. (Col ’55), emeritus special assistant to the president. Gilliam compiled a 27-page report in 2014 that captured many of the anecdotes that follow.
I. Menagerie for many
Pavilion I once housed a brown bear, one of many “pets” raised by its first inhabitant, Dr. John Emmet. A professor of natural sciences from 1825 until 1842, Emmet filled the pavilion’s serpentine-walled garden spaces with botanical experiments; when they began to overflow, he bought the property that today lies adjacent to Alumni Hall and named it “Morea,” the botanical name for mulberry.
Despite its classification, Pavilion I was actually the fifth to be built; construction began with Pavilion VII in 1817, and the remaining buildings followed as funding allowed, ending with the Rotunda’s completion in 1826.
Although Pavilions V and VIII are the only two to still contain actual classrooms, residents do often open up rooms for lectures and seminars. For example, Scott Beardsley, dean of the Darden School of Business and Pavilion I’s current resident, teaches two seminars in his first-floor dining room.
And yet the pavilion is also very much Beardsley’s home, and a hospitable one at that. He and his wife, Claire, are known to join in giant snowball fights or host homemade crepe parties for Lawnies on snow days—moments that “make you feel part of an incredibly special community,” Beardsley wrote in an email.
II. No ghosts, just tourists
While the Rotunda blazed with fire in 1895, a bucket brigade saved the adjoining pavilion on the dome’s east side. Today, it’s home to John Unsworth (Grad ’88), dean of libraries. Since moving into the pavilion in 2017, Unsworth says he’s seen his share of streakers—including one on a skateboard—but, surprisingly, no spirits. “I’d have expected ghosts, but haven’t met any,” he wrote. Then again, “I hadn’t expected that tourists would walk into the house if you leave the door unlocked—but they do.”
The curiosity surrounding these buildings would surely have pleased Jefferson, who employed each of the classical orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian) throughout the Lawn as a lesson of how architecture could be deployed in a modern way. In effect, the pavilions became part of the curriculum, says Brian Hogg (Col ’83), senior historic preservation planner with the University’s Office of the Architect.
III. Pricey yet petite
The most expensive pavilion to build (because of the ornate Italian marble capitals on its four Corinthian columns), Pavilion III is among the smallest; alongside IV, it has never been expanded, although its interior reveals a history of walls being moved, as well as doors and windows changing places.
Each pavilion was originally conceived to house a classroom on the first floor, faculty living quarters upstairs, and kitchen and service rooms in the basement. From the start, professor tenants began asking the Board of Visitors for permission to build additions, or at least to annex the adjoining dormitory rooms.
Despite Pavilion III’s changes throughout the years, its kitchen remains in the basement, “so it’s great if you are on a diet and trying to limit the late-night snacks,” wrote Carl Zeithaml, dean of the McIntire School of Commerce.
He and his family lived in Pavilion X for 10 years before moving into III, and he speaks fondly of the many wandering tourists—including those who peered through the dining room window during dinner. “I assume that they were disappointed that we were not dressed in Jeffersonian attire and dining by candlelight,” he added.
IV. Secret societies and stealthy guests
Having lived in Pavilion IV since 2003, Larry Sabato (Col ’74) is among the longest-standing current Lawn tenants. The professor and director of the UVA Center for Politics also lived in 16 East as a student, just 30 paces away, and so he says life in these parts rarely surprises him. “I’m so jaded,” he wrote, “that I don’t even get up to watch the mass streaks that I hear outside my windows.”
Secret societies do occasionally meet in the basement of his pavilion (we can’t tell you more, ’cause it’s a secret), but the stealthiest guest of late? A large opossum that dug underground this February and found a pipe leading to the pavilion. “It has more teeth than any marsupial in North America, and it let me see them,” Sabato wrote about his guest. “With a gestation period of just 13 days and a mating season of January to March, swift action was required.”
V. Listening to the Lawn’s rhythms
Pat Lampkin (Educ ’86), vice president and chief student affairs officer, says she loves living on the Lawn, not only for the calming architecture but also because it quite literally helps her do her job: keeping her pulse on student life.
But Lampkin is no Lawn novice; she first moved into the Academical Village more than three decades ago. She and her husband, Wayne Cozart, executive director of the Jefferson Trust and Alumni Association senior adviser, even brought their two children home for the first time to VIII. “My daughter was raised by the U Guides at that point,” Lampkin jokes.
After a 13-year break, they returned with teenage kids and spent a few years in III before moving into V in 2008. With such a history, Lampkin says, they’re unfazed by most of the sounds that surround them: from choruses of “The Good Old Song” at midnight to trash pickup at 4 a.m. Though their bedroom lies on the home’s Lawn side, “we don’t have noise machines,” she says.
Her minimal request? “I wish people didn’t think every time they streak the Lawn they have to scream,” she says. “Just streak quietly.”
VI. Romance, for better or worse
Sometimes referred to as the “Romance Pavilion,” Pavilion VI got its nickname when it housed the Romance languages department from 1927 till the opening of New Cabell Hall in 1952. But a University Guide legend gives another reason for the pavilion’s name: a tale of a professor’s daughter who died of a broken heart after her parents disapproved of her relationship with a student.
Another ghoulish story from the pavilion claims that a widow who didn’t want to leave her Lawn home kept her husband’s corpse seated by the window until her scheme was uncovered and she was asked to leave.
Current resident Mona El Khafif says she’s felt no such spirits about her, but she admits avoiding the mural room unless visitors are requesting a tour. “It feels as if I don’t belong here,” wrote the associate professor of architecture, who lives in VI with her partner, Ila Berman, dean of the School of Architecture. Strange noises can be heard from time to time, she added, “but I heard that there are squirrels in the roof.”
VII. Colonnade Club
As the very first University structure built (with its cornerstone laid on Oct. 6, 1817), the pavilion also acted as the University’s first library. Today, it is the only pavilion not functioning as a faculty residence; since 1907, it has welcomed faculty and alumni as the Colonnade Club.
Yet its interior bears witness to its former life. When Dr. John Staige Davis lived there in the mid-19th century, he requested permission to take over the adjoining dormitory room as his study. Permission was granted, and a door was cut through the separating wall for easy access to 33 West. Though the two structures are no longer connected, the outline of the door can still be seen to the right inside the club’s entrance.
As a side note, Davis—professor of medicine—helped in local military hospitals during the Civil War and is said to have lodged wounded soldiers in the pavilion. One friend from undergraduate days, a Gen. Carnot Posey, died in Davis’ study.
VIII. Unexpected company
Among Pavilion VIII’s most-famed residents is William “Reddy” Echols, the mathematics professor who lived here for 38 years and catapulted dynamite in a dramatic effort to contain the 1895 Rotunda fire.
His is admittedly a tough act to follow. President James E. Ryan (Law ’92)—currently staying in the pavilion’s upstairs apartment while Carr’s Hill undergoes renovation—hasn’t yet been called to dynamite anything. He puts himself in a position to learn from others before enacting change, even on the Lawn, it seems.
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that if you live in a pavilion, lock your door,” Ryan told an audience at a January event, reiterating what many others have learned.
Most of his unexpected visitors have stayed on the first floor, he added—except for one morning, when he walked out of the bathroom in a towel and found a couple on the second floor. “They didn’t react the way I thought you should react if you’ve seen someone in a towel. They said, ‘Wow, this is so cool. Where are we?’ I said, ‘You’re in my home!’ And they said, ‘Oh, that’s great! Who are you?’”
Once Ryan vacates, Pavilion VIII will undergo renovation once more, having last been updated in the mid-’80s. It will still host two apartments, classrooms and the office for the University Guides.
IX. An architectural favorite
With a striking recessed, semicircular entrance bay—known as an “exedra”—Pavilion IX is reflective of Jefferson’s time spent in France. It also became the first of his structures at UVA to “go green”—gaining LEED certification in 2013 following renovation of the kitchen and bathrooms, and complete replacement of all systems: HVAC, plumbing, electrical and internet.
“We introduce all the modern things in as discreet a way as we can,” UVA architect Hogg says, “making sure the buildings are comfortable for modern times.”
But aside from the updated amenities, Dorrie Fontaine—dean of the School of Nursing—says the best part about living in a pavilion is the relationships formed with student neighbors. “We are invited to weddings, and they come back for homecoming and reunions and always seek us out,” Fontaine wrote. After all, “we did feed them when they lived here.”
When Fontaine retires this summer, the pavilion will turn over to new residents approved by the Board of Visitors [see sidebar “Who decides which ’Hoos get to live on the Lawn?”].
X. Children on the Lawn
Pavilion X’s most legendary resident is likely John A.G. Davis, who lived here from 1833 until he was shot by a student in front of the pavilion in 1840.
Later, a niece of distinguished law professor John Minor conducted a small school within the pavilion at the end of the 19th century, attended by most of the Lawn children. One such student may well have been John Lile, son of Professor William Lile, whose name remains carved in cursive in Pavilion X’s front window. “I hope to goodness [my kids] never break it,” says Wendy Baucom, wife of Ian Baucom, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I’m sure we’ve been hard on the house in various ways, but this is a piece of history.”
Three of the Baucom’s five children still live at home (the youngest being 9), plus a nephew, dog, rabbit and hedgehog. Despite attention from many young adult neighbors and spontaneous soccer games in their front yard, Wendy Baucom says the family sometimes misses a more typical neighborhood feel. When she first showed her youngest—then about 5—where they would soon live, she pointed out the balcony that runs all along the Lawn, from pavilion to pavilion. “He was like, ‘Oh wow, that’s so great! I can go visit my friends!’” she says. “And I was like, ‘Ohhh, I don’t think Larry Sabato is going to have you over to play.’”