Source/reposted: NPR.org Â BRAKKTON BOOKER
A hidden chemistry lab was unearthed by a worker doing renovations to the iconic Rotunda at the University of Virginia, and school officials say the room is directly linked to the third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who helped design the building.
The “chemical hearth,” which dates back to the 1820s, is thought to be one of the few remaining in the world. It featured two sources of heat for conducting experiments, and a system for pulling out fumes.
According to the University of Virginia press release, the room, described as “a semi-circular niche in the north end of the Lower East Oval Room,” was preserved because the walls of the hearth were sealed shut in the mid-1800s:
“The University of Virginia’s Rotunda still has its secrets, as conservators are discovering amid the building’s ongoing two-year renovation.
“One of them is a chemical hearth, 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.”