A 200-Year-Old Hidden Lab With Ties To Thomas Jefferson Has Been Discovered By Construction Workers.

If there are two things to consider when renovating an old building, one is to be careful, and the other is to keep your eyes peeled. While workers were renovating the historic Rotunda at the University of Virginia, they made an accidental, historic discovery.

Sealed behind one of the building’s lower walls was a Jeffersonian-era chemistry hearth! The chemical hearth is a part of an early science classroom. It had been sealed in one of the lower-floor walls of the Rotunda since the 1850s, and thus was protected from the 1895 fire that destroyed much of the building’s interior.

Two small fireboxes of the hearth were uncovered in a 1970s renovation, but the hearth itself remained hidden until the current round of renovations. When preparing for the current renovations, workers examined some of the cavities in the walls and found the rest of the chemistry hearth.

You can find the specific ties to the third U.S. President in this detailed article from the school, but the story goes that Jefferson (who founded the university) wrote about the importance of a proper chemistry lab in a letter to a member of the Board of Visitors.

If anything, this historic chemistry lab shows us just how far we’ve come in science. The hearth will be part of the room’s permanent display once renovations are complete, so anyone wishing to see what early 19th-century chemistry was like will have a chance!

What do you think of the discovery of the Jeffersonian-era chemistry lab? Do you think that other historical buildings have secrets to reveal? Use the comments section below and share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!


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