If there’s two things to consider when renovating an old building, one is to be careful, and the other is to keep your eyes peeled. While workers were renovating the historic Rotunda at the University of Virginia, they made an accidental, historic discovery. Sealed behind one of the building’s lower walls was a Jeffersonian-era chemistry hearth! You can find the specific ties to the third U.S. President in this detailed article from the school, but the story goes that Jefferson (who founded the university) wrote about the importance of a proper chemistry lab in a letter to a member of the Board of Visitors.
If anything, this historic chemistry lab shows us just how far we’ve come in science. The hearth will be part of the room’s permanent display once renovations are complete, so anyone wishing to see what early 19th-century chemistry was like will have a chance!