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Inquiry Question

Historical Context




Table of

Locating the Site

Map 1: Map of Virginia and Washington, D.C.[Map 1] with link to larger version of map.
(Office of the Architect, University of Virginia)

Charlottesville is in the Piedmont region of Virginia, about 75 miles west of Richmond, the state capital. In selecting the site for the new state university, Jefferson proposed "a healthier and more central position" than Williamsburg (the location of the College of William and Mary). He suggested that the university might be located "perhaps in the neighborhood of this place [Monticello]."¹

Map 1: Map of Charlottesville area, 1877.[Map 2] with link to larger version of map.
(Prints Collection, The Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia Library)

The site which was ultimately selected for the University of Virginia was a piece of land one mile west of Charlottesville that was once owned by James Monroe. The land consisted of farm fields and woodlands amidst the rolling countryside of Albemarle County. It is consistent with Jefferson's long-standing dislike of city life that he chose a rural location removed from the established town. While the University was being built, Jefferson frequently rode the four mile distance from his home at Monticello to the worksite to survey the construction.

Questions for Maps 1 & 2

1. Locate Williamsburg, Richmond, Charlottesville, and Washington, D.C. on Map 1.

2. What advantages did Jefferson see in locating the university in the western part of Virginia? What disadvantages might there have been in selecting Charlottesville, as opposed to Williamsburg or Richmond, given 18th-century transportation?

3. The University of Virginia is located a mile outside of Charlottesville. Suggest reasons why Jefferson would prefer a rural setting to an urban one (such as the state capital at Richmond).

¹Richard Guy Wilson, ed., Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village: The Creation of an Architectural Masterpiece (Charlottesville: Bayly Art Museum of the University of Virginia, 1993), 13.

* The maps on this screen have a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi), and therefore will print poorly. You can obtain a larger version of Map 1 and Map 2, but be aware that each file may take as much as 40 seconds to load with a 28.8K modem.



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