Repair Work On UVa's Historic Chimneys Under Way

Ann McClure's picture
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Crews are fixing fireplaces in the rows of rustic rooms on the University of Virginia's historic Lawn and Range after inspectors found cracks in flue linings and chimneys last year in the rooms, which date to the school's 1819 founding.

Now contractors and university staff are working to repair 61 chimneys and 105 flues at the Charlottesville school, and install a modern fire-suppression system in time to allow students to use their rooms' fireplaces later this fall and winter. The project, which is expected to be done by November, has a total budgeted cost of about $3.7 million, or about $35,000 per room, and is being covered by donations and maintenance funds, U.Va. officials said.

The burning hearths in the Lawn and Range rooms have been a longtime tradition, even after the university installed central heating in the early 20th century. The university requires students to undergo a training class before they're allowed to use the fireplaces.

Historians say there are accounts in old U.Va. yearbooks of 17-year-old student and future macabre writer Edgar Allan Poe breaking up furniture and burning it in his fireplace at 13 West Range in 1826.

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