UVa workers unearth early Thomas Jefferson chemistry lab

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UVA Workers Unearth Early Thomas Jefferson Chemistry Lab


Construction crews working on renovating the University of Virginia rotunda have made a surprising and historically significant discovery behind a wall.

"I was laying on my back looking up inside this little space. I saw that there was a piece of cut stone, which is very unusual to have in this location," Matt Schiedt told WCAV.

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That cut stone turned out to be part of a chemistry lab dating back to the 1820s, and it was at least partially designed by Thomas Jefferson.

The lab had some features you'd find in any chemistry lab to this day, including heat sources and a ventilation system.

The space was abandoned in the 1840s so a more advanced chemistry lab could be built to keep up with the advance of technology. It was bricked up and forgotten about until now.

That brick may have inadvertently saved the historical laboratory. The solid exterior prevented it from being destroyed by a fire in 1895 and shielded it from renovations in the 1970s.

Historians are thrilled it did, as the lab is one of the earliest of its kind left.

"As far as we know and what we've been told, this is the only surviving early 19th century chemical hearth in the United States and possibly the world," UVa historian Jody Lahendro told WVIR.

The lab will be available to tour as part of the visitor center when construction on the rotunda is finished in 2016.

Related: Israeli family discovers ancient Jewish ritual bath under home:
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Israeli family discovers ancient Jewish ritual bath under home
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UVa workers unearth early Thomas Jefferson chemistry lab
Tal places a ladder from his living room on July 1, 2015, leading to an ancient Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), dating from the Second Temple Period and believed to be over 2000 years old, which contains a staircase leading to an immersion pool, which the family discovered during renovations at the private house in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. Ein Karem is also considered a holy place for Christians since according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born there, and it is where his pregnant mother, Elisabeth, met the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tal places a ladder from his living room on July 1, 2015, leading to an ancient Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), dating from the Second Temple Period and believed to be over 2000 years old, which contains a staircase leading to an immersion pool, which the family discovered during renovations at the private house in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. Ein Karem is also considered a holy place for Christians since according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born there, and it is where his pregnant mother, Elisabeth, met the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tal descends a ladder from his living room on July 1, 2015, leading to an ancient Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), dating from the Second Temple Period and believed to be over 2000 years old, which contains a staircase leading to an immersion pool, which the family discovered during renovations at the private house in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. Ein Karem is also considered a holy place for Christians since according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born there, and it is where his pregnant mother, Elisabeth, met the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Tal looks at an immersion pool in an ancient Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), dating from the Second Temple Period and believed to be over 2000 years old, which the family discovered under their living room during renovations at the private house in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. Ein Karem is also considered a holy place for Christians since according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born there, and it is where his pregnant mother, Elisabeth, met the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Oriya looks down at ladder from her living room on July 1, 2015, leading to an ancient Jewish ritual bath (mikveh), dating from the Second Temple Period and believed to be over 2000 years old, which contains a staircase leading to an immersion pool, which the family discovered during renovations at the private house in the picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. Ein Karem is also considered a holy place for Christians since according to the New Testament, John the Baptist was born there, and it is where his pregnant mother, Elisabeth, met the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
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