A Review of the Conditions of the Grounds (1849)
    by Emily Richards, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Architecture, 3rd year)

In June of 1849, following the end of a school year, an inspection of Grounds is held to review its cleanliness and good condition. The inspection was requested by the faculty but was overseen by a University officer, who was recorded to have observed the following.
 
The disposal of household waste caused considerable problems for the superintending of Grounds. Where the Proctor requires that soapy water and kitchen “slops” be carted off to remote locations, servants generally take the easy route by tossing them outside into the gardens and areas surrounding the Pavilions and Hotels. Drains for rainwater runoff are also installed around the buildings, so servants at times toss the waste down them, as well. Unavoidablly, the “putrescible matter” soaks down into the soil, where it becomes a “fruitful source of offensive exhalations.” In consequence, the Faculty ruled that all soap suds and kitchen remnants should be sealed in watertight containers that would be taken each day, Sunday excluded, to be dumped on a remote area of the Grounds.
 
As for the student bathrooms, the faculty noted sarcastically that they are in as good of condition as foul student habits and very poor building construction would allow, and lime is sprinkled into the toilets and on the surrounding ground daily. Because the bathroom floor sits directly on the soil, though, matter is sometimes trapped between the two, causing awful smells. The faculty hopes to raise the bathroom floors two feet above the soil level, which would allow for better ventilation. They note that this should be taken to the Board of Visitors with propriety and expediency.
 
Pavilion and Hotel gardens and yards are in varying conditions, but the Faculty deems it the responsibility of the professors and Hotel Keepers to get them in proper shape. The Faculty requests that they be inspected before the week is up for improvements; any that are not already made will be executed by the University servants and charged for repayment to the residents. In general, lime seems to be the cleaning product of choice and is sprinkled liberally around parts of Grounds that see any type of waste, and whitewash seems a good cover-up on buildings.
 
As the above observations and recommendations suggest, it appears that the Board of Visitors oversees decisions about building on Grounds, but it is the Proctor who directly controls the execution of University maintenance.
 
References
University of Virginia. Faculty Minutes. Vol. 6.7 (16 June 1849): n.p.
 
Cite This Entry
Richards, Emily. "A Review of the Conditions of the Grounds (1849)." JUEL, June 18, 2015. http://juel.iath.virginia.edu/node/18.
 
First published: June 18, 2015 | Last modified: