There was a nip in the air and a crane on the Lawn.
University of Virginia students, bundled in sweaters and jackets, mostly walked by the rather unusual sight Wednesday: a crew from Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. painstakingly easing an eight-ton telescoping crane up three of the Lawn’s four terraces, to be used in the Rotunda renovations.
The crane, which will place the scaffolding that will hold up the portico roof while it is being repaired, slowly worked its way up the Lawn, scaling the terraces with plank ramps the workers installed before it and dismantled behind it.
The bright-green crane truck, a Ford F750 XL Super Duty, was brought to the Lawn via McGuffey Alley, carrying on its platform the materials for the ramps needed to get it over the terraces. Hard plastic mats were laid in front of the wheels to give the rubber-tired vehicle traction and to prevent damaging the turf.
The workers used the crane to position ramps made from four 20-foot long, foot-square timbers bolted together. The rough-hewn ramps weighed 3,600 pounds each and smaller timbers were chain-sawed down to size to fill the gaps.
The slow journey up the Lawn took about six hours before the crane entered a gap in the construction fence, which was closed behind it.
The crane’s crawl drew scant attention from students and other passers-by, a few of whom paused for a few seconds to snap some quick photos before continuing on their ways underneath a greyish-blue sky that threatened rain.
Evelyn Jackson, a third-year psychology student from Edgewater, Maryland, was studying on the northern-most terrace, glancing occasionally at the crane that still seemed so far away. She would be well on her way to class by the time the vehicle got to her position.
“I’m glad I’m not a Lawn resident, because of all the noise and everything,” she said. “But everything will be better in the end.”
She was surrounded by the sounds of construction. Jackson said she was not bothered by the noise.
“I just block it out,” she said.