Responsible stewardship of historic buildings requires the adoption of a curatorial approach to the problems of their maintenance, renewal, and restoration. Just as an art conservator would not intervene in the life of an artistic artifact before obtaining a thorough knowledge of its history, significance, and composition, so those engaged in the preservation of buildings and landscapes should proceed only from a basis of knowledge. Too often in the past, the cultural integrity of countless buildings and their settings has been compromised by approaches to restoration grounded on personal whim, willful romanticism, and expedient notions of repair.

The preparation of a historic structure report is the first step in adopting a disciplined approach to the care of a historic building. Over the course of the past several months, a team, comprising architectural historians, archival researchers, architects, and building conservators, has been engaged in producing this report on Pavilion I. Their activities may be broadly described as surveying and recording. Surveying includes reconnaissance of archives and detailed investigations at the site. Recording entails setting down a permanent graphic and written record of these findings. Assembling the minutiae of the building's history and current condition establishes a benchmark that not only will provide a guide for immediate work but also will furnish future generations with a clear picture of what was found in our time.

By gleaning Jefferson's papers, the university's archives, and written accounts of the university, it has been possible to assemble a history of the building's design, construction, subsequent alteration, and use. Careful measurement of all exterior and interior features of the building has facilitated the preparation -for the first time -of a comprehensive set of architectural drawings. These illustrate in plans, sections, elevations, and details the existing configuration and evidence of original construction, as well as special architectural features. At the same time, a detailed architectural description of the entire structure, including all exterior features and room-by-room descriptions of the interior, was written. All the constituent parts of the building's fabric were examined to determine the nature of physical problems that have occurred over the decades, the existing conditions, and the scope of needed repairs. A preliminary investigation of historic paint layers proved valuable in dating various elements and gaining an understanding of historic color schemes. Interviews with the occupants and university staff provided a better understanding of the building's problems, current shortcomings, and long range plans for its use.

This report presents the results of this work. None of these endeavors, however, should be regarded as definitive; rather, they are the initial phase of an ongoing process. Although archival research has been started, the records of the Proctor, Board of Visitors, and other university bodies must still be investigated for additional insights on the development and evolution of the building since its initial construction. As more of the building fabric is exposed during renewal and restoration work, there will be unique opportunities to obtain further data. These findings also should be noted by measurements, drawings, photographs, and written descriptions to augment what has already been recorded.

Pavilion I was selected as the first of the Jeffersonian buildings at the university to be the subject of a historic structure report because it is the next building where extensive restoration work is planned. It is hoped that this endeavor establishes a precedent for the treatment of all the buildings, as well as the landscape, in the Jeffersonian Precinct. Ideally all work on the grounds and structures should be preceded by the preparation of similar studies. Even when time or resources may not permit such comprehensive study before executing a particular item of work, such as a roof replacement or painting of exterior woodwork, limited research and investigation should be conducted and the results recorded before work crews begin. Gradually with the pursuit of a year-by-year and building-by-building program to prepare historic structure reports on all the physical aspects of the Jeffersonian Precinct, knowledge and collective consensus will replace individual whim and uncertainty.

By establishing the Jeffersonian Restoration Advisory Board and the position of Architect for the Historic Buildings and Grounds, the Board of Visitors of the university has recognized the need to assume responsible stewardship of the Academical Village. Over time, as evidence of this realization is manifest on the buildings and grounds, the university will have secured the gratitude of present and future generations for its sensitive and caring preservation of a national treasure.

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Last Modified: Friday, 12-Jul-1996 15:27:31 EDT