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Posted at 01:18 PM ET, 10/20/2011

University of Virginia will restore historic fireplaces with private funds

The University of Virginia will restore damaged fireplaces in historic student rooms, officials said – as soon as they can raise the estimated $3.7 million needed to do the repairs to chimney flues and build in a sprinkler system.

A $100,000 gift from a former resident of one of the rooms launched the campaign.

The fireplaces have been used for nearly 200 years, ever since Thomas Jefferson designed the public university with student rooms at the heart of campus, known as the Lawn. But earlier this year routine inspections turned up cracks and other damage to the chimneys, and school officials determined that the fireplaces were not safe to use in an internationally known historic site.

School officials debated whether the fireplaces were essential tradition, or too risky for students to use.

Students compete for a chance to live in one of the rooms on the Lawn, and seniors there this year, along with graduate students on the nearby Range, supported restoring the fireplaces. They are planning to contact former residents of their rooms — each one has a list on the closet door — to ask for donations to www.keepthefiresburning.org.

Senior Reedy Swanson, the head resident of the Lawn, said students are “thrilled that the university has agreed that the fireplaces are an integral part of the historical value of the Academical Village,” Jefferson’s vision of a living-learning community on campus, “though we’re trying not to count our chickens before they hatch.”

By  |  01:18 PM ET, 10/20/2011

 
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