Workers Find Remnants of 1830s-Era Roof in Pavilion VIII Renovation

July 27, 2021 By Matt Kelly, Matt Kelly,

What’s new under the roof? At Pavilion VIII, it is another roof.

University of Virginia employees performing a renovation of Pavilion VIII found physical evidence of a roof designed by the pavilion’s second resident, Charles Bonnycastle, a professor of natural philosophy and mathematics. (The pavilion's first resident was mathematics professor Thomas Hewitt Key.)

Project manager James Zehmer said the pavilion had originally been built with a Thomas Jefferson-designed serrated roof to give the building a flat-roof appearance. But Jefferson’s serrated roof leaked.

“We knew that Charles Bonnycastle actually designed and patented his own batten roof system,” Zehmer said. (Battens, also called roofing lath, are used to provide the fixing point for roofing materials.) “We knew that from documentary evidence. John G. Waite Associates, the project architects, also wrote the historic structure report [on Pavilion VIII], had done that research and [had] the actual patent drawings in the report. However, they did not find any physical evidence that that roof was ever put on the building.”

Recently, workers discovered some actual pieces of the Bonnycastle roof, which was installed in the 1830s.

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“That was pretty exciting,” Zehmer said. “We found in the attic some of the actual batten strips, and they matched the drawings. We could see the fastener patterns for that batten roof that Bonnycastle had designed.”

“It’s hard to know how well the roof performed, but a quick look at the Historic Structures Report shows the next roof replacement was in the mid-1870s,” said Brian E. Hogg, senior historic preservation planner at the Office of the Architect for the University. “That’s not a bad lifespan for a metal roof.”

Zehmer said there was a discussion about restoring Bonnycastle’s roof as part of the current renovation, but that was rejected because of what it would add to the cost. Instead, W.A. Lynch Roofing Co. Inc. of Charlottesville will replace the current standing-seam roof that was probably first installed in the mid-20th century.

“It would have been very expensive; probably a $200,000 change order,” Zehmer said. “But the research is done and that does not preclude someone from doing it sometime in the future if they make that decision.”

The sections of the original Jeffersonian serrated roof are encapsulated in the attic of the building, as are some of the pieces of the Bonnycastle roof.

Whole in the ceiling to expose the water sprinkler system
Workers examine structural reinforcement of the second floor joists in Pavilion VIII.

“The sheathing boards from the hipped roof that have fastener patterns and ghost marks are being left in place,” Zehmer said. “The remnants of the batten roof system that were found in the attic are now being preserved in UVA’s architectural fragment storage.”

The pavilion has been expanded over the years. Workers digging underneath the ground floor to install utilities found evidence of a one-story addition Bonnycastle appended to the building in 1835 as quarters for enslaved workers.

“We found the base of a brick wall in an area about 10 feet behind the back wall of the original pavilion,” Zehmer said. “On the back side of that wall were paver bricks, suggesting a possible work yard.”

Zehmer said workers only uncovered enough of the brick foundation to install the utilities, but he said that archaeologists studied what was uncovered.

“They found a brick with a fingerprint in it, which is always a poignant reminder of the presence of the enslaved laborers who likely made the brick and then used it in the construction of a space intended to house enslaved laborers,” Zehmer said.

Inside of a gutted room in Pavilion 13
Workers installed mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems in the pavilion basement.

The one-story building was gone by 1853, replaced by a new addition.

“The addition was built between 1853 and 1855 for the same reason that most of the additions were built: the professor living in the building at the time had a large family,” Hogg said. “In this case, Socrates Maupin and his wife moved in with their six children. There were also between five, from the 1850 census, and 11, from the 1860 census, enslaved workers in the household. As was the custom at the time, the University gave permission to build the addition; the tenant paid for it and was subsequently reimbursed by the University.”

Pavilion VIII is undergoing its first renovation since 1986. When this renovation is completed at the end of this year, there will be four classrooms on the main floor, faculty apartments upstairs and in the basement, and a basement office for the University Guides. Workers are moving a wall to make the main floor’s restroom compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There will be plenty of wi-fi for the classroom use and the residents,” Zehmer said. “There will also be classroom monitors, whiteboards and other amenities, basically offering 21st-century pedagogy in a 19th-century building.”

Pavilion VIII was a faculty residence until 1949, then housed the offices of the President and the Board of Visitors until 1984.

Pavilion 7 scaffolding
Pavilion VIII is undergoing its first renovation since 1986.

“The current arrangement was introduced in 1986 after the building was renovated,” Hogg said. “It was designed specifically to return teaching to a pavilion on the Lawn, rather than turn it into another single-family residence. The two apartments are assigned to a wider range of faculty than the pavilions, which adds to the variety of residents. I understand that it is popular with both the students and with the faculty who teach in the building, in large part because of the building’s historic character and associations. It’s a pretty special place for classes.”

In the upstairs apartment, workers with John Canning’s preservation company from Cheshire, Connecticut, carefully stripped the paint from a portion of an entablature that runs around the room just under the ceiling. Jefferson designed it with a repeated series of raised Roman symbols of sacrifice, such as an ox skull, various tools and implements made from a terra cotta and lead composition by William Coffee of New York City. While the original symbols have been painted over many times over the years, Zehmer said Canning determined that the original wall was painted and then the symbols were added.

“It’s hard to know why Jefferson used this design beyond his desire to have a variety of orders and ornament used on the Lawn, but it’s clearly one that he liked since he also used it in the parlor at Monticello,” Hogg said. “It’s from what was then known as the Temple of Jupiter Thunder, now the Temple of Vespasian and Titus, in the Forum in Rome. The various objects depicted – among them ox skulls, knives, urns and bowls – are symbols of sacrifice.”

Canning’s workers also will “grain” the front door, a painting process that takes a plain pine-wood door and makes it appear to be a more exotic wood. The pavilion doors were originally grained, and the University has been restoring these designs.

person pointing to a design on the entablature
Thomas Jefferson designed the entablature with a repeated series of raised Roman symbols of sacrifice.

Also on the exterior, Materials Conservation of Philadelphia has steam-cleaned the original Carrara marble capitals, building boxes around the capitals, pumping in steam, and then peeling off the loosened paint.

“At some point in the building’s history, they had been painted most likely to cover up some soiling from atmospheric pollutants, likely from burning coal and wood over the years,” Zehmer said. “The paint had gotten to the point where it really clogged up some of the carving and the details.”

Materials Conservation workers also repaired some minor damage on the capitals, including one acanthus leaf that was broken in shipping the capital from Italy, according to University records.

And it is not just the capitals receiving attention.

“We will be stripping the monumental columns along with the colonnade columns out in front,” Zehmer said.  “We will be stripping all the paint off and restoring the render to a lime render so the columns breathe. Then we will be painting them with a lime paint that matches our Swiss Coffee color.”

Conservation workers cleaning the pillars of Pavilion 13
Workers from Materials Conservation of Philadelphia remove paint from the original Carrara marble capitals after loosening the layer with steam.

The work is not merely cosmetic; reverting to a lime render will make the columns healthier, he said.

“The main thing is the actual structural column can breathe again,” Zehmer said. “The later coatings basically trapped moisture and caused the columns to rot from the inside out. It is weird to think of brick rotting, but it does when you trap that much moisture in it.”

Workers also will restore the ceiling that had originally been in the colonnade.

They also are repointing a lot of the brickwork, replacing the more recent Portland cement mortars with a lime mortar that is more compatible with a hand-made brick building.

scaffolding at Pavilion 7 for renovation
Workers will strip the paint off the monumental columns and the colonnade columns and replace it with a lime render that will allow the columns to breathe.

“On the front side of the building, we are adjusting the portico roof slightly,” Zehmer said. “And we are putting a new railing on the elevated walkway that will eventually tie into our roof-and-rail project that we are doing in between the pavilions. Eventually it will all be one continuous deck from Pavilion VI to Pavilion X.”

On the rear of the building, workers are replacing the balcony railing on the 1938 porch.

“This is a concrete porch and we are doing some structural repairs,” Zehmer said. “The wood railing we are replacing is not that old. It may not even be from the 1980s – it may be more recent than that. It just needed repair and replacement. We are matching the design of the 1938 porch railing, which was still there.”

The total budget for the current project is $5.45 million. The University’s Construction and Renovation Services Department is acting as the general contractor with some subcontractors.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications