March 30, 2011 - University of Virginia officials were pleasantly surprised to learn that Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has included $2.69 million toward replacement of the Rotunda's distinctive domed roof in his amendments to the General Assembly's 2011 budget. The amendments were released today.
The University had unsuccessfully asked that funding be included in the governor's original budget proposal, and then in the General Assembly's budget.
"We were extremely pleased – make that thrilled – by this unexpected news today," said Colette Sheehy, U.Va.'s vice president for management and budget. "We are also extremely grateful to Gov. McDonnell for his recognition of the Rotunda as one of the country's important historic landmarks and his belief that the state should share in the funding of some of its restoration."
The total from the state – if approved by the General Assembly, which takes up McDonnell's proposed budget amendments when it reconvenes next week – will be $2.69 million, the original amount the University requested to help with the project.
The total cost for the roof will be $4.69 million, with the remaining $2 million, in private funds, coming from the University.
"This funding will allow us to move forward with the design phase, which we expect will take place through the fall," Sheehy said. Construction is set to begin in early 2012 and take about a year.
This is just part of the first of two phases that the University will undertake to restore the entire building over the next four to five years. The total project will cost $51 million.
Designed by Thomas Jefferson as the heart of his "Academical Village" and begun, but not completed, during his lifetime, the Rotunda was devastated by fire in 1895. It was rebuilt – and largely redesigned – by acclaimed architect Stanford White's firm, McKim, Mead & White. A $2.3 million renovation in 1976 was intended to bring the building back into conformity with Jefferson's original.
That 1976 renovation was the last major work to be done on the building, although maintenance has been performed over the years. But like many an older building, the Rotunda has reached the point that major work is needed.
The marble Corinthian capitals on the building's north and south porticos have been shrouded with black construction netting for about a year, to prevent pieces of the stone from falling.