Allen’s law pad falls in Montalto demo

The first demolitions on top of Brown's Mountain have begun, and Senator George Allen's favorite law school pad has crashed.

"We're tearing down this and two other structures that are in so-so condition, and we know that we will not use them again," says Michael Merriam, the director of construction management for Monticello, which owns the site Allen and countless others fondly recall as as "Brown's Mountain."

Allen's press secretary David Snepp received a photograph this morning on his Blackberry of the shredding of Allen's beloved former residence as he was striding into the Capitol with the Senator.

"I showed him the photo, and he said, 'Oh, no,'" says Snepp. " I hated giving him this news. It holds an incredibly solid place in his heart– so important that he took his bride-to-be up on the mountain to propose to her."

The mountain's circa 1905 granite bungalow-style mansion and various stone farm buildings aren't under threat, but the four-unit apartment building that Allen identifies as his second- and third-year law school home was probably built in the early 1960s, Merriam says. The two other structures that will immediately fall to the heavy machines of Sandston-based Canada Contracting Co. over the next week and a half are cottages built in the early 1940s, Merriam says. They're all buildings that Monticello officials believe to offer more burden than history.

"It's better to tear down a structure and clear it off the site when you have a chance to rather than to leave them there abandoned to cave in on themselves," says Merriam.

There were no buildings on the site in Thomas Jefferson's day, but the young nation's architect-in-chief did envision building a tower or giant column on Montalto to delight his eye from Monticello. Although Jefferson left behind at least three designs, Monticello spokesman Wayne Mogielnicki says such construction is unlikely in the future even if one radio reporter at this morning's press conference declared the concept "would be cool."

"So would a cable car and water slide," retorted Mogielnicki. "We are passing up so many money-making opportunities it's incredible."

Monticello officials rushed to buy the 330-acre tract two years ago to keep it from becoming the site of up to 24 so-called McMansions. Mogielnicki says that Monticello is donating conservation easements– which would keep the land development free– to augment contributions directed toward the acquisition. He says that $12 million of the $15 million purchase price has already been raised.

The eventual U.S. Senator and possible presidential hopeful left the mountain after his 1977 law school graduation but returned January 1, 1986 to propose marriage to his wife Susan. Press secretary Snepp says not all of Allen's memories carry such magic. Like the time he tried to set a trap for an animal that had been rummaging through his trash. It turned out to be a skunk.

"Lo and behold, he got sprayed," says Snepp. "He says his law school classmates gave him a wide berth for a couple of weeks."

Monticello officials say they hope to recruit the local architectural firm of Dalgliesh Gilpin Paxton to perform a study to determine how to preserve the remaining pieces of the former mountaintop retreat and working farm. Among the suggestions: linking Montalto into the popular Saunders-Monticello Trail for sightseers and converting some of the stone buildings into space for seminars and quarters for visiting scholars.

1 comment

...he'd declare this "Mission Accomplished."