A hidden chemistry lab was recently unearthed by a worker overseeing renovations being made to the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. School officials say the room is directly connected to none other than Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who helped design the building. Most people know Jefferson as the third president of the United States and principal author of the Declaration of Independence. But did you know that he also founded the University of Virginia?
The "chemical hearth," which traces its origins to the 1820s, is thought to be one of the few remaining in the world, as most of the hearths from the era have been destroyed. Not only did it feature two sources of heat for conducting experiments, but it also had a system for pulling out fumes.
The room, which school officials describe as "a semi-circular niche in the north end of the Lower East Oval Room," was preserved because the walls of the hearth were closed shut in the mid-1800s. Moreover, Thomas Jefferson collaborated with the university's first professor of natural history, John Emmet, to outfit the space.
The University plans to keep the hearth on display once all renovations are complete.
I can only imagine how that project manager must have felt after realizing (if he did at all) that he'd accidentally stumbled upon a piece of history. Imagine coming face to face with something that Thomas Jefferson helped conceive -- how cool is that? It's like being transported back to the early 19th century.
Are there any historic places you've visited in your life so far?
How would you have felt if you had discovered the chemistry lab?
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