Work will soon begin on the installation of two permanent wheelchair ramps that will, for the first time, enable students, faculty, staff and visitors with mobility issues to traverse the length of the Lawn.
The Lawn Accessibility Project was recently advanced by the Board of Visitors, allowing for work to begin in early July on the ramps, which will be installed on the western side of the Lawn adjacent to Pavilions V and IX.
Scheduled to be completed by late October, the project will provide a permanent, continuous, barrier-free route along the terraces from the Rotunda to Old Cabell Hall.
The Lawn, as laid out by Thomas Jefferson, features four terraced levels descending from the Rotunda to the south, flanked by 10 Pavilions and the original student dormitories.
Pedestrians on the walkways running alongside the Lawn negotiate sets of stone stairs – well-worn by centuries of use – to travel between levels.
“Thomas Jefferson designed the Academical Village to serve as the centerpiece of our educational institution and a role model for others to follow,” Historic Preservation Project Manager James Zehmer said. “With this project, we are expanding that vision to be even more inclusive to the 200,000 visitors we welcome every year.”
Zehmer noted that as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lawn is part of a global community drawing guests from around the world.
“We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful place to live, play, work and learn, and we should do everything in our power to share that experience with as many people as possible,” he added.
Currently, existing ramps provide access only to the uppermost and lowest Lawn terraces. The middle terrace is accessible only by way of McCormick Road and Patterson Alley. The ramps will save 775 feet of travel from the upper and lower terraces, 850 feet between the middle and lower terraces, and 815 feet between the upper and middle terraces.
The ramps will be set into the sloping banks between terraces to reduce their visual presence within the Lawn setting, and the same custom brick blend used for wall repairs in the Academical Village buildings will be used for the ramps.
“Although the board is always hesitant to alter anything relating to the Academical Village because of its historical and architectural significance, occasions do arise when we need to make adjustments based on current circumstances,” said Whittington W. Clement, who chairs the Board of Visitor’s Building and Grounds Committee.
“The board has been firm in its position that the University be welcoming and accessible to all,” he added.
Pre-construction archaeology is set to begin this week in front of Pavilion V and is expected to take up to two weeks. The work will be performed by Rivanna Archaeological Services as approved by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The area may contain significant archaeological information pertaining to the construction of the Lawn terraces, early University water systems, and possible early pathways on the Lawn.