Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Colonnade at Washington and Lee

While in Lexington, we toured the grounds at Washington and Lee University . What an amazing campus with such a rich history. I told Ashlyn that I want her to attend school there so I can visit!

I could barely find any information on the history of this building. This is one thing that has surprised me since starting this blog. When you find and photograph a historical building, come home and try to find some information on it, there isn't a lot out there. So frustrating. Even on the school's website, not much about the history of each building, or even a photo gallery. I think that a lot of times, counties or towns take for granted what they have in historical value, that would be interesting for others to know. I guess they just assume that if you live there, you already know all about it. Well what about new comers or passers-by? Anywho.....

This is the best information I found and you can CLICK HERE to read more but I am also going to paste a brief synopsis:

"The Colonnade" refers to a range of brick buildings with Tuscan porticos that, seen together, give the impression of a continuous colonnade. Comprised of Washington Hall, Payne Hall, Robinson Hall, Newcomb Hall, and Tucker Hall, the Colonnade was begun after an 1803 fire seriously damaged the college's main building (Liberty Hall, 1793); the campus made a completely fresh start in a new architectural style. Building on the Colonnade was completed in phases between 1824 and 1842.

Although Lexington was far from the centers of culture in the early nineteenth century, the Colonnade illustrates the process by which sophisticated architectural ideas were adopted and adapted by builders in more rural areas. The influence of Thomas Jefferson is particularly felt in the Roman temple fronts applied to the otherwise simple brick structures. What now appears to be a single, harmonious concept for the building group actually came about as a series of building efforts and corrections as the college attempted to achieve the image of a modern institution with striking new architecture. The result is a very beautiful and pleasing structure, monumental in appearance from afar, but intimate, informal, and comfortably scaled to the pedestrian passing through its arcades.

As can be seen in numerous early photographs, the exterior of the Colonnade has changed very little since its completion. The interiors of the buildings were fireproofed in the 1930's. Little work has occurred since that time, and the buildings lack modern features such as fire alarm systems or sprinklers, central air conditioning, elevators, and fire stairs; plumbing in the central building is confined to the first floor.

From the National Register report:

The historic core of Washington and Lee University is composed of a collection of architecturally harmonious and spatially related neo-classical buildings that together form one of the most dignified and beautiful college campuses in the nation. The central and most significant element of this complex, the "Colonnade," gives the impression of being the product of a single architectural concept, but in reality this splendid succession of columned and pilastered buildings is an evolutionary product of a building program extending over nearly one hundred and fifty years. As the school grew, its administrators and builders successfully used this growth as a means to enhance the visual unity of the institution without falling into monotony. The first buildings erected in 1803 by what was then Washington College, have long since disappeared. It is, however, the oldest of the existing buildings, Washington Hall, erected in 1824, which sets the architectural tone of the campus. Its builder-architect, John Jordan, was a self-taught designer of much ability. Jordan was able to transform the prevailing architectural fashion of the time into a sturdy, local idiom. The principal departures at Washington and Lee from Jordan's simple classicism- the Lee Chapel and the President's House- do not detract from the unity of the area, but serves as interesting foils to it.

In the center of the Colonnade is the oldest and largest building of the group, Washington Hall- a three-story temple-form structure fronted by a provincial hexastyle Roman Doric portico. Washington Hall was erected in 1824; its present roofline and two-story flanking wings were added in 1843. The octagonal Greek Revival cupola, topped with a wooden statue of George Washington, was added in 1844. The statue, carved from a single piece of white pine by a local cabinet maker, Matthew Kahle, is a fine example of American folk art. Washington Hall's flanking wings, fronted with coupled Doric pilasters, link the building to two matching rectangular structures.

Ok, that wasn't too brief, but it was just too interesting to leave anything out!

Also, if you like web cams, I found this "Colonnade Cam" and you can see the difference in the tree from when I took the photo above (last month) to now. To view CLICK HERE


  1. It is a beautiful campus. Good luck convincing Ashlyn to attend a nearby school. Our youngest daughter decided she wanted to attend the University of Guam! It's a loooonnnggg way from Vermont to Guam.

  2. Look at all those beautiful columns! I love it. Both of my kids attended college right here in their hometown. Of course it helped that Tallahassee has a major university. The trouble with them going far away to college is they don't usually come back home after they graduate. Both my kids stayed here and convinced their significant others to do the same, so that worked out well for me.

  3. My friend is the chef there. So I know the food is good!

  4. An attractive building Tanya - Dave.

  5. This is a nice building. It's too bad it's so difficult to find historical info.

    Hope you have a great weekend!!


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