UVA to demo 23 buildings at Blue Ridge Hospital

For almost 30 years, the crumbling Blue Ridge Tuberculosis Sanatorium along Route 20 South has been in the shadow of the wrecking ball. Now it appears the ball is going to swing, as the owner has applied for demo permits.

Founded in 1920, the Sanatorium operated as a tuberculosis treatment center until 1978, when the State transfered ownership to the University of Virginia. In 1988, UVA applied for a demo permit to take down the buildings on the site, but it was denied because the 142-acre, 45-building complex was deemed historically significant. In 2000, ownership of the property was transfered to the UVA Foundation, which handles all UVA's real estate transactions, and in 2002 the Foundation announced it was partnering with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation for Monticello. However, after preservationists and UVA's own architectural historians stepped in to argue for the site's preservation, even producing an adaptive reuse proposal for the site, the TJ Foundation eventually chose to build its visitor's center on the site of Monticello's existing ticket office.

Almost 20 years later, the University–by way of the UVA Foundation–has again applied for a demo permit–this time for 23 buildings on the site.

"We expect to receive the permit in the next month," says UVA spokesperson Carol Wood.

The site made headlines three years ago when 23 UVA literature students were arrested for allegedly trespassing on the site.

The UVA Foundation, says Wood, intends to eventually build a research park, but there is currently no timetable or anything being actively planned for such a project. "The intention is to stabilize the property and to ensure its safety and security until such time that a decision is made to move forward on planning," says Wood.

According to local architectural preservationist Doug Gilpin, who was hired four years ago by UVA to study the property, many of the buildings on the site were worth saving. In particular, he mentions the Lyman Mansion, the Wright Building, and the Chapel. (See photos above.)

"We've restored buildings in worse condition," says Gilpin, admitting it's been four years since he last visited the site, "but it would cost a lot to restore them."

News of the planned demolition came as a surprise to UVA architectural historian Daniel Bluestone, who has long argued for the site's preservation and whose students produced the adaptive reuse proposal for the site in 2002. "This is the first I have heard about this," said Bluestone.

However, as the historian is quick to recall, a provision in the memorandum of understanding between UVA and the UVA Foundation when the property was transfered calls for consultations with University architects and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources "to determine which historically significant structures should be preserved for future adaptive reuse."

At blog post time, Wood and UVA Foundation president Tim Rose had not yet responded to questions about which buildings will be demolished, and whether the University's architects and the state's Department had been consulted, but they are expected to comment later in the week.

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4 comments

What a waste of historic resources....

I wonder if anyone is buried on those grounds from either the TB era or its era as a psychiatric hospital. Would be good to know before they knock down buildings.

Whty do they really want to destroy the site???

interesting that Bluestone sent his students there and never got in trouble. Not all of the buildings are nice guys - lots of mold and asbestos (sp?) Way back I had a friend I in the hospital there (was it called Blue Ridge? can't remember) that place was awful. The pics on this article are of the nicest buildings... it's not all like like.