31st October, 1895.
To the Rector and Visitors
Of the University of Virginia.


The Faculty have to report to you in official form
the grievous disaster which has befallen our University. The
fire of the 27th October, 1895, breaking out in the rear of the
top story of the Annex, tho' soon discovered, speedily passed
beyond control and in spite of the devoted efforts of our offi-
cers, faculty, students, friends and neighbors continued its
work of ruin until the Annex, the Rotunda, a large part of
their contents, and the wings connecting the Rotunda with the
Lawns were either burned or wrecked.

An investigation of the causes of the disaster will be made
at as early a date as possible. It is doubtful whether its or-
igin will ever be securely established. Yet such enquiries as
have been made serve to convince us that the disaster can be
ascribed to no lack of care on the part of our officials or
servitors, but is one of those dark lessons in the discipline
of life, beneath which we must bow in humility and faith. It
is a painful but perhaps a salutary lesson to us in showing
that we must no longer depend solely upon external aid for sub-
duing such conflagrations, and we shall recommend below that
one of your first acts be to develop some systematic and
thorough internal system of fire protection for our buildings.
The Faculty will proceed at once to study the proper details of
such a system and, desires to report upon the same to your
Board at an early day.

It is fitting that we put on record in this paper our live-
ly sense of gratitude for the gallantry and devotion of our
students, the prompt and unstinted aid of our neighbours; in-
cluding many noble women, the generous readiness of the South-
ern and the C. & O.R.R. companies to bring a trained fire ser-
vice to our rescue, and the alacrity with which the Fire De-
partments of Charlottesville, Staunton, Lynchburg and Richmond
flew to help us. The services of the railway and fire compa-
nies were rendered generously and gratuitously, and we recom-
mend that your Board consider the propriety of making some pe-
cuniary acknowledgement of the same.

Amid all our dismay in presence of this vast disaster we
have the consolation of remembering that its risks and dangers
were endured with the loss of no life, and we trust with no se-
rious damage to the health of any of our brave assistants.
The imagination of fatalities that might have befallen some of
them makes us almost forget our material loss.

We are happy also to report to your Board that the work of
the University of Virginia has suffered no interruption and
will continue without a break. It is prosecuted amid some diffi-
culties and some discouragements, but all are cheerfully borne.
We feel assured that your Board, facing the emergency with a
like spirit, will unite with us in the most active and earnest
efforts not simply to restore the beauty and conveniences of
our establishment, but to increase its usefulness by providing
facilities more ample and splendid than we have heretofore en-
joyed for our scholastic work.

Animated by this conviction we have given careful and mi-
nute attention to the details of plans for rebuilding. We have
with the authorization of the Rector, called in as consulting architect
Mr. MacDonald of Louisville, Ky, and have availed ourselves of
his professional experience and knowledge in clearing our views
upon the state of the ruined buildings and estimating the ap-
proximate cost of improvement, without however involving your
Board in any expressed or implied agreement to employ him fur-
ther. We have also been taught by the disaster, which has be-
fallen us, the danger and impolicy of the system of construction
followed in our old public building, and recommend to you a
strict adherence to the general plan of fire-proof construction
and of isolated buildings. With these preliminary points es-
tablished we proceed to recommend to your Board the following
specific action.

I. That the ruins of the Annex be at once demolished, the use-
ful building material removed to such new site as your Board
may select for the proposed Academical building (see IV below),
and the depression occupied by the old building filled with
earth. The Faculty is convinced that the original construction
of the Annex was an architectural blunder and the restoration
upon the old site would invite a repetition of our present dis-
aster. It was a building devoid of true architectural merit
and very costly for the accommodation secured. The direct loss
consequent upon its removal will not exceed $2500.00. The in-
direct loss occasioned by its old location has exceeded $100,000.
We trust that no thought of its restoration will be entertained

II. That the two wings to the Rotunda be at once reconstructed
in their former proportions, but of fire-proof materials, and
assigned to the use of the Library and the School of Natural
Philosophy respectively. The remnants of our Library, stored
temporarily in cellars and garrets, are now collecting on the
floor of the Natural History Museum; but for any real use by
professors or students the books must be shelved in some accesi-
ble apartment. The condition of our philosophical apparatus
in the same way renders the work of instruction exceedingly
difficult and extravagantly laborious. Finally the enforced use
of the Museum as a place of deposit for these objects has made
it necessary to close this building entirely to visitors.

III. That the Visitors engage a competent Architect and in-
struct him to prepare plans for the restoration of the Rotunda,
but in fire-proof materials. The walls of this building need
little repair, but should be at once protected against damage
from weather. The Faculty feels that the original proportions
of this central building should be religiously observed, but
recommends that a new portico should be erected on the North
side corresponding to that on the South, with proper flights
of steps descending to the esplanade to be formed over the site
of the old Annex, and thence at the Ramparts to the level of
the ground. The Faculty also respectfully calls the attention
of the Visitors to the fact that the old Library room had be-
come so crowded with books that an orderly arrangement of them
was impossible, and the consequent utility of the collection was
seriously impaired. They therefore recommend that the Architect
be instructed so to design the interior of the building that
the whole of the capacity from the dome down to the portico
floor may hereafter be readily and simply utilizable for Libra-
ry purposes, and they request that he be also instructed to con-
sult with their Library Committee as to the details of this de-
sign. They also advise that the Architect be instructed to
give especial attention to the problems of heating, lighting
and ventilation, which in the old building were inadequately
solved. Believing that the funds requisite for this reconstruc-
tion are already on hand or immediately in sight, they recom-
mend that the work of design be pushed rapidly to its comple-
tion and the work of construction begun at the earliest prac-
ticable moment.

IV. That the Architect of the Board be instructed to propose
plans for a new Academical building to contain as its central
member a public hall, designed in the horse-shoe or theatrical
form, and two wings each with six lecture rooms of sizes suit-
able for large and small classes. The Faculty recommends that
the Visitors select at this session the site for said building
in order that complete designs may be prepared and accurate es-
timates be made of the cost of construction; and inasmuch as it
is in the last degree important that such building should be
completed before September 1896, that the work of the next ses-
sion may be effectually prosecuted, they advise that as soon
as funds for the completion are obtained (estimated at about
$90,000) the contracts for construction be immediately let.

V. That the architect be directed to prepare, under the advice
of the Professor of Natural Philosophy, plans for a Physical
Laboratory to be erected on such a site as the Board may at
this session select. The Faculty have expressed in former re-
ports their conviction that more ample provision should be made
for the important school of Natural Philosophy. The desirabil-
ity of a specially constructed and isolated building for deli-
cate physical experimentation is obvious. Rooms for elementary
and advanced instruction in Physics and especially for Electri-
cal and Magnetic measurements should be free from sensible trem-
ors and the last should be remote from attracting metallic
masses. Preliminary estimates shew [sic] that all these advantages
are obtainable at a cost not exceeding $30,000, which sum our
assiduous efforts will probably be able to raise.

VI. That the architect be directed to prepare, under the advice
of the Professors of Applied Mathematics and Engineering; plans
for an Engineering building to be erected on such a site as the
Board may select. An establishment involving necessarily the
existence of coal sheds, boiler house, engine room, and so on,
ought on grounds of safety to be isolated from all others.
Preliminary estimates shew that a building adequate for the
present needs of the University and providing for considerable
growth, will cost less than $30,000. The sum of $2500 has al-
ready been promised toward its equipment with laboratory ap-

VII. That the architect be directed to prepare, under the ad-
vice of the Professors of Law, plans for a Law building to be
erected on such a site as the Board may select. The growth of
the Law school justifies this recommendation and the Faculty
believes that its future prosperity will be thus powerfully ad-
vanced. The quarters of the Law professors have long been a re-
proach to us. The estimated cost of this building is not over
$20,000. It would be possible, though by no means easy or
safe, for the work of the University to go on without the three
last buildings. But the Rotunda and the general Academical Build-
ing are really necessary for our success, and we feel that they
must be secured. The buildings for Physics, Engineering and
Law are arranged in the order of relative importance and the
Board is advised to observe this order in their erection, if
but one can be erected at a time.

VIII. The Faculty is deeply impressed with the propriety of
following in these new buildings classical types of design and
of locating them so as to create an harmonious combination with
the original Jeffersonian group. As we examine the additions
made to this system by Jefferson's successors, we are forced to
confess with a certain shame that not one of them has added in
the least degree to the harmony and beauty and magnificence of
the original composition. We recommend, therefore, that the
Visitors select as their professional adviser a man not of lo-
cal repute only but of broad and national consideration, that
he be instructed to consider in his designs not merely the con-
venience and elegance of the single structure, but its effect
as a member of our general architectural system, and that he
submit to your Board a comprehensive scheme which shall embody
his advice on the location not only of the buildings recommend-
ed in this report but also of such additional dormitories, hos-
pital buildings, official quarters and so on as the Visitors
may contemplate. The study of our grounds as a problem of
landscape gardening should at the same time receive some atten-

IX. In view of the fact that the next buildings season may re-
quire us to complete a large amount of work within a brief
time, we recommend that the Superintendent be instructed to
proceed at once with preparation for the manufacture of such
a number of bricks of thoroughly good quality as the architect
may advice in addition to the supply saved from the Annex.
By selecting the brickfield promptly, digging out the earth,
raking it over and screening it if necessary, and letting it
weather through the cold season, we shall obtain a better brick
than can be purchased in the local market and at a far lower

X. Finally we desire to recommend as above indicated the pro-
vision of a special and effective fire-service for the Univer-
sity, and to advice that the Superintendent be authorized to
study the details of such systems, in conjunction with a Com-
mittee of the Faculty, to advice with your architect thereon,
and to report his conclusion to your Board.

While we have proceeded in making the above recommendations
upon a broad and generous hypothesis as to the present and fu-
ture needs of our University, we believe that we have done no
more than wisdom dictates. Yet we are not oblivious of the dif-
ficulties of the financial problem arising out of the poverty
of our beloved State and the limited fortunes of our Alumni.
We believe, nevertheless, that our present devastated condition
will be in itself a powerful appeal to the sympathies of every
friend of learning; that the example of a judicious liberality
and undaunted spirit, if set here, will be contagious; and that
a bold and frank appeal to the Legislature will meet with a re-
sponse alike generous and kind. The new buildings and restora-
tions necessary for the needs of our present and our immediate
future will cost about $250,000, or about $200,000 more than
our present resources. We would respectfully recommend that
the sum of $200,000 be at least asked for from the State for
buildings, leaving the generosity of provate [sic] gifts to perfect
our equipment. But whatever be the success of this appeal, we
pledge to the Visitors our unwearying and earnest efforts to
rehabilitate the University and ask from them their unwavering
support in our plans and labors for its welfare.

Very respectfully,

Wm.M.Thornton, Chairman.

Forwarded by order of the Faculty - 4th Nov., 1895.

A copy