October 28, 2021

University of Virginia: Local ‘Monticello’ Bricks Found in Alderman Library Renovation

From the University of Virginia:

In the extensive renovation of the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library, workers for contractor Skanska have found locally made, wood-molded “Monticello” bricks. The over-sized bricks, 4 inches by 3 inches by 9 inches, weighing in at 5 ¾ pounds, known in the trade as a “jumbo brick,” were found inside the chimney in the McGregor Reading Room.

The reading room was a gift to the University from Tracy W. McGregor of Detroit, who had a large American history library and an interest in Virginia. A visitor to Charlottesville, he founded the McGregor Fund to support charitable works. Upon his death in 1936, his book collection passed to the trust, with instructions that it be donated to an institution that had “fine ideals of higher education.” In 1938, the fund trustees donated the collection to UVA.

Alderman Library was already under construction at the time, but a space was set aside to house McGregor’s collection of books and manuscripts.

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The brick business has been around Albemarle County a long time. Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s father, used brick made from the red clay of an adjacent hillside for the foundation of a house he built near Shadwell in 1737. Through the 18th century, because of a suitable local clay, brick was a prominent area building material.

The Monticello Brick Company was incorporated in 1925, according to a history of brickmaking in Charlottesville and Albemarle County written in 1998 by Palmer C. Sweet for the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. Palmer cited a 1926 article in The Daily Progress that the company opened for business around June of that year.

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The Monticello bricks that library renovation workers recovered from the dismantled chimney were in fairly good condition.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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