Photo by Wikipedia user Ibn Battuta:

Workers conducting renovations on the University of Virginia Rotunda, designed by UVA founder Thomas Jefferson, discovered a hidden room in the building's floor.

The Associated Press reports the room is actually a 19th century chemistry lab, containing a complex chemical hearth that would've been used for experiments. Because it survived an 1895 fire that devastated the building, it must have already been sealed into the wall and forgotten by the mid-1800s.

The Rotunda stands in the center of the original University of Virginia campus, and originally contained a library on the main floor. One of the University's historic preservation architects told the AP that Jefferson's decision to place the Rotunda at the center of the school, and to include the now-discovered chemistry labs, spoke to his dedication to science.


"It really is the beginning of the teaching of science" as one of the defining principles of a university rather than religion, Jody Lahendro told the AP. "The Enlightenment, changing the viewpoint of the world."

Thomas Jefferson hasn't had the best public rep recently, as Missouri students plastered a Jefferson statue with signs proclaiming him a racist. Perhaps some secret architecture will give Jefferson a boost.


The university plans to put Jefferson's secret hearth on display for visitors and students once the renovations are complete. But only on display, leave your phials of sulfuric acid at home.