The Lawn By the Sea: UVA Dad Creates Sandy Version of Jefferson’s Academical Village

July 31, 2023 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

The ideal beach day activity for Chuck Pollard, a 54-year-old chief operating officer for a technology company in Richmond, involves a couple of shovels and a trowel.

“Some people like to sit in the sun and read a book,” Pollard said. “I’d rather build a sandcastle.”

Pollard’s favorite vacation hobby has evolved from creating basic drip castles with his four kids when they were young to more complex coastal projects.

Like constructing a seaside model of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village.

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Pollard is the father of two Wahoos. His oldest daughter, Beeza, graduated from the University of Virginia’s School of Nursing in 2020. A younger daughter, Meg, will be a first-year student this fall.

Beeza and Meg were Pollard’s inspiration for his latest design: a miniature version of the most iconic spot on Grounds.

Over the course of six hours on July 18 at Emerald Isle, North Carolina, Pollard, relying on just a few tools and some assistance from Meg, crafted a replica of the Rotunda and six pavilions – with three on each side of a wide open space that represents the Lawn.

Pollard and his family
Pollard and his three daughters – Katherine, Meg and Beeza – take in a UVA basketball game at John Paul Jones Arena. (Contributed photo)

Images of Pollard’s work reveal further precise details such as the columns surrounding the Lawn as well as the steps attached to both the south (facing the Lawn) and north (facing University Avenue) sides of the Rotunda.

Pollard said he intended to build out the entire Lawn – four more pavilions, Old Cabell Hall and all – but he ran out of time.

“My family started calling me in for dinner,” he said.

This wasn’t Pollard’s first attempt at sculpting UVA. Three summers ago, on the same Emerald Isle shore, he built just the Rotunda out of sand with support from all four children – Beeza, Meg, Jack and Katherine.

This time, with a second child on the brink of beginning her UVA career, Pollard, a North Carolina State University alumnus, wanted to add to his original masterpiece.

The result drew not only rave reviews from his kids – “They’re proud of their obsessive dad,” he said with a laugh – but it got the attention of those walking by on the beach.

“There was somebody from Switzerland who came up and starting asking about it,” Pollard said. “And it gave me the opportunity to tell them about UVA and Jeffersonian architecture. That was fun.”

Wider view of the Rotunda/Lawn sand castle
It took six hours for Pollard to build the Rotunda and six pavilions. The open space represents the Lawn. (Contributed photo)

Though Pollard is a self-labeled amateur when it comes to sand art, he’s building quite a portfolio. His Instagram page – @castlesbythec – shows sandy representations of everything from the campus of Washington & Lee University (his son’s alma mater) to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this summer on the Outer Banks, Pollard said he teamed with his brother, a professional architect, to create a replica of the Titanic.

“It’s become a passion for me,” he said. “I never look at it as a chore. It’s just something fun to do.”

Pollard’s previous experience on the Rotunda allowed him to mostly work from memory when constructing the Academical Village, though he admits he periodically glanced at photos for guidance.

It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia
It's closer than you think. University of Virginia Northern Virginia

The Richmond native says he’s walked the Lawn “probably 100 times” in his life. Now, boosted by some Wahoo pride from his daughters, he’s recreated it.

“UVA is such a great school in a beautiful town,” he said. “We go to basketball games, football games. It’s fantastic. We just love being a part of the UVA community.”

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Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications