May 4, 2012
Nearly 230 years after Thomas Jefferson designed the Virginia Capitol, a statue of him is finally on permanent display in the landmark.
The $300,000 bronze sculpture was unveiled Thursday for an invitation-only gathering in the 5-year-old subterranean Capitol Extension beneath the south lawn of Capitol Square.
The event, featuring House Speaker Bill Howell and other legislative leaders, honored three Virginia families that together paid the cost of the statue. The state spent no public money.
The donors — Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman and CEO of Dominion, the state's dominant utility, businessman-philanthropist William Goodwin and Brent Halsey, a co-founder of paper manufacturer James River Corp. — pulled away the linen drape that had concealed the statue.
A public dedication is scheduled Friday at 10 a.m.
The sculpture, titled "Thomas Jefferson: Architect of Liberty," weighs 800 pounds and sits atop a 3-ton limestone pedestal in the circular Capitol Extension Plaza, commanding a majestic view down a hallway that connects a museum area, meeting spaces that can double as theaters and stairs that lead visitors into the historic Capitol overhead.
The statue is nearly one-fifth larger than Jefferson was in real life, and depicts the Declaration of Independence author at age 42, around 1785, holding his blueprints for the Capitol, which was completed in 1788.
The Capitol is not only home to the state Senate and the House of Delegates, it doubled for a time as the seat of the Confederate Congress.
Jefferson, the nation's third president, was also the founder and designer of the University of Virginia, a few miles from his mountaintop estate, Monticello, near Charlottesville.
The Virginia Capitol's most famous sculpture, however, is a priceless marble rendering of George Washington that has stood in the Capitol Rotunda since 1996. At Jefferson's recommendation, Virginia's General Assembly in 1784 commissioned French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon to sail to America and sculpt Washington.