Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

UVA Chapel and Gardens

Tuesday July 7, 2015                                                        Previous Post:
Charlottesville, Virginia
                                                      A Virtual Walk to Jefferson’s Rotunda






My last post left us at the Rotunda’s 3 year facelift.  Not too many folks were interested in the walk it seems.  We’ll see what they think about the gardens.

I walk on around the side, peek in the fence to see what’s going on there and then proceed along the serpentine wall lined walk to the chapel.  The serpentine walls are one of the many structures Thomas Jefferson created that combine aesthetics with utility. The curving path of the wall provides strength against toppling over, allowing the wall to be only a single brick thick.  Pretty neat but hard to photograph.










The chapel sits outside of the main Academical village and was designed by a Baltimore architect and alumnus of UVA. It was built in 1890.

The chapel is the first structure on Grounds built exclusively for worship. With its Gothic Revival style, it is in sharp contrast to the secular classicism of the nearby buildings on the Lawn. According to The Campus Guide: University of Virginia,  the Chapel was built in response to 19th-century accusations of heathenism that had been leveled at the University.  That makes me laugh.

The Chapel is a beautiful stone building in great demand for alumni weddings. I’ve heard you have to book it years in advance. Do people plan their weddings years in advance?









I hear the chapel bell ringing later when I’m walking through the gardens.




From the chapel, I turn back to the first of the West Range gardens.  The open gate is so inviting.




All of the gardens have white benches on some of the paths.  Some are semi hidden.  This one is out in the open against the serpentine wall of the garden.



The upper part of each garden is the back of the Pavilion where the professor lives.  Now that there are so many more professors than Pavilions, they are reserved for the Deans of the Colleges and schools.  It’s a feather in your cap to live on the lawn whether you are a professor or a student.





I only meet two folks on my walk through all 10 gardens today.  Here is the first one.




He’s so busy munching grass he doesn’t pay me any mind.  He’s as cute as he can be but has a serious number of ticks on him.




Out one gate and in the next.





Some gardens have sculptures on the lawns and big trees to hug.

















This bench has no back.  Perhaps they don’t want you to get too comfortable under the apple tree and pick all the fruit.  Although all paths seem to lead to the tree.






I don’t see much espaliering of fruits anymore but the gardeners here have done it against the serpentine walls.




Another hidden bench.










Between two of the gardens on both the west and east sides, a drive goes up for the professors’ vehicles to reach their homes.  Serpentine walls lined with flowers and lamp posts make a pretty fancy drive way.







And how about this walk up to the back of your house through your “yard” which is taken care of by the UVA Gardens Grounds Crew.  Sweet!




Back in the corner of most of the gardens are two or three doors leading into what were the outhouses and are now gardening sheds for the people who take care of the gardens.






I’ve strolled through all the west gardens and now cross the lawn to walk back up through the east gardens.  The University of Virginia Graduation Ceremonies take place on the lawn here each year, so does a community Halloween trick or treat when local children go from door to door in the academical village and the students and professors provide the treats.








In the first garden on the east side I find Michael getting tools from the outhouse turned garden shed.








We chat for a while and he tells me how much he loves his job.









I’m surprised to see so few people and no one using the benches for study or reading or lunch.  Perhaps it’s because it’s summer and a hot day.  But here in the gardens, it’s quite cool.   When I worked at the University I often spent my lunch hours in the gardens on a different bench each time.


























The crepe myrtle back in the corner of this garden is finishing his display and the pink petals even look beautiful on the ground and especially decorating the rock.











I finally smell a mimosa before I see it.  It’s the only one I’ve found here.  I smile when I see the pink flowers planted around it by the gardeners.



















I can cross the driveway here and go directly from one garden into the next.  Usually you have to go out and around to move from one to the other.




The back of this Pavilion facing the garden looks almost identical to the front facing the lawn.











I’ve come to the last garden gate.  I leave the enclosed spaces for the larger world outside.




What’s the name of this building?





Once back in front of the Rotunda, I take the same walk back again.



Madison Bowl is surrounded by numerous Greek Houses on Madison Lane which is directly across University Avenue from the Rotunda.





This side of Rugby Road beyond Beta Bridge is the “arts area”.  The art school, art museums and architecture school are all in this area along with the Helms Theater.  On another day perhaps I’ll walk around there and show some its beauty.



Fayerweather HallIMG_8946




I had thought I’d get an early morning walk in before it got too hot but with the labyrinth side track, it has taken me the entire morning.  But that’s OK, I have nothing else pressing to do.  I sure do love being retired.  Should have done that years before I did.


  1. What a beautiful campus. Nice pictures and every picture is so green and lush.

  2. Very nice gardens and pics, you tree hugging bunny lover. Thanks.

  3. I was a bridesmaid in my cousin's wedding at the Chapel at UVA. I believe it was around 1962 or 63. My uncle was a professor at UVA. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I've enjoyed your whole walk!

  4. The building is Brooks Hall (http://www.virginia.edu/webmap/popPages/11-brookshall.html) - definitely the craziest building on Grounds. There's always talk of tearing it down, but I would hate that. It just needs some sprucing up. I don't know if I've ever even been in it.

    Love the garden walk. We are/were so blessed to work in such a setting - especially when the students are gone. Love it!

  5. Very nice. I love old chapels and walking through gardens like that.

  6. The gardens are absolutely beautiful and so well tended too! I love the wall but too bad that someone had to graffiti part of it! :-(


  7. I would love to walk through those gardens. Do the professors living there have any private yard space? Or is it all public space?

  8. Universities are such nice places to walk. We never seemed to appreciate that as students.

  9. What a beautiful place to work or study or just plain stroll.

    Frankly, just about everything in life is better when one is retired!

  10. What a pleasant place for a walk, especially when there a is nobody around. I had to laugh at your second tree-hugging picture. Looks like you did a face plant right onto the tree!

  11. This is a gorgeous campus. We always enjoy our time in that area. Yes, being retired is wonderful:)

  12. Oh I just love these gardens! I'm so glad you took me there again. Every white bench has so many stories to tell - can you imagine all they've seen and heard over the years? Michael must feel like he won the lottery working there every day :-) Your photos really capture your love of the place. That Thomas Jefferson guy did good :-)

  13. What a beautiful campus! The cathedral is amazing. What great places to be able to sit and meditate among the flowers.

  14. The gardens and campus are a beautiful area to explore! The chapel particularly stands out, and it doesn't surprise me that it gets booked up for weddings so much in advance. Everyone wants to get married on a Saturday, after all. There's a basilica here that is often booked three years in advance for Saturday weddings.

    The work on the Rotunda has to be done, and these days it seems as if there's a shortage of the skilled tradespeople to do that sort of work. How many people go into stonemasonry, for instance?

  15. "espaliering of fruits"??? Guess I'm going to have to bring a dictionary to read your posts from now on. ;)

  16. WOW...such beautiful gardens. I am going to have to visit Charlottesville one of these days and get a personal tour;o)) Love the serpentine wall and the brick walkway really reminded me of herringbone!!

  17. Great tour. I would not have thought to visit the campus, but now will if we are in the area:)

  18. I'd like to be in a nice cool garden right now.

  19. Such lovely gardens. It must be interesting for you to go back and visit a place where you've spent so much time in your previous life. Love the photo of your tree hug!

  20. You made me miss my crepe myrtle that I planted and nursed into a beautiful bush at our VA house. Sadly it had to stay behind when we sold the house and hit the road.

    Just curious, do the professors get free housing as part of their compensation or do they have to pay fair market value rent? I'd imagine beautiful housing on that campus would rent for quite a pretty penny.

  21. we hope to be staying near the campus in August but man everywhere around there is so expensive...

  22. Thanks for the great tour. I would really love to see that beautiful wall. There is so much to see and photograph there and plenty of shade. Looks like the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon.

  23. I always heard that UVA has the prettiest campus of any college in the old ACC. Even with all the new schools joining, I bet it's still the prettiest by far.
    I finally caught back up with reading your blog. Got busy with the Reunion Rally, then a week or two here and there without internet, then just busy enjoying traveling and Acadia. Thanks for your posts. Summer in Virginia sounds pretty nice the way you paint it with your words and photos. So sorry to hear of David's health issues and your cataracts.

  24. Great tour of beautiful gardens - definitely an interesting concept for deans or professers to have back yards 'open to the public', but it's wonderful that UVA helps care for the gardens and that the history and tradition of the Lawn is kept alive. Beautiful flowers and cute bunny - and of course impressive architecture.

  25. The serpentine walls are so much more inviting than a straight brick wall. Sort of beckons you along. Looks like you could have taken a nose plant hugging that big tree. What a marvelous place to be a gardener. I'd like to sit and read on any of these benches. All those gates make this a special and secret garden.

  26. Sweet little bunny face!!! A little tree hugging, flower blooming and best of all bench sitting. I like that they have different styles...all the better to carry back memories of each one.


Your comments are the best part of this blog for me.
I LOVE hearing from you!