Old Cabell Hall and Homer University of Virginia

Old Cabell Hall facade with Homer

Old Cabell Hall is the home of the McIntire Department of Music at the University of Virginia, and serves as the frequent practice and performance home of the Virginia Glee Club. Designed by Stanford White of the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White in the aftermath of the Rotunda fire of 1895, Old Cabell Hall, which sits opposite the Rotunda, closes off the Lawn and marks the southernmost extent of the original Academical Village.



McKim, Mead, and White plan of the new buildings, showing Old Cabell Hall at the bottom

Old Cabell Hall, originally known as the Academical Building and built at the same time as Cocke Hall and Rouss Hall (the "laboratories"), was specified as part of the post-Great Fire rebuilding plan to provide for classroom space that was lost in the destruction of the Rotunda Annex.[1] Specifically, the auditorium of Old Cabell took over many of the functions of the auditorium of the Annex, and even some of its decoration: a copy of "The School of Athens" made by G. W. Breck from the original in Rome hangs above the stage in homage to a similar copy, destroyed in the fire, that hung in the Annex auditorium.[1] The building has a classical aspect, and a Greek motto translated as "Ye Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Make You Free" is inscribed on the facade.

Of the design of Old Cabell Hall and the laboratories, White wrote in an essay published in the 1898 Corks and Curls:

The carrying out of the quadrangle in the simple style and character of the old buildings, with their extreme modesty of height, was a very difficult problem, and was rendered much more difficult by modern academical requirements, especially that of the academical theatre, with its seating capacity of nearly 3000. To have built so large a building above the ground level would have crushed the Rotunda and entirely done away with the charm of the old University Lawn. The grade of the land, however, happily permitted a solution of this difficulty. The green gently drops down to its present finish, and to the eye the new line of buildings is of but slightly more importance in height and character than the old buildings surrounding the old Lawn. This has been accomplished by grading and by a tremendous fill of earth--nearly thirty feet in height--at the end of the Lawn. The new buildings only count as one story high from the inner side of the Lawn, but are two, and even three, stories high on their outer faces, these stories descending instead of ascending.[2]


In addition to the "School of Athens," the original design of the hall included a prominent skylight, as visible in some of the Holsinger photos in the gallery; the skylight was closed in a later restoration.

In 1906, a Skinner pipe organ, donated by Andrew Carnegie,[3] was installed in the Hall. Known as Opus 127, the organ is the largest and oldest extant Skinner organ and features three manuals, 35 stops, 27 ranks, and 1585 pipes.[4] Until the organ's restoration in recent years, the organ was prone to ciphers (stuck notes), which made Glee Club concerts featuring the organ somewhat unpredictable.

For many years, the rehearsal space of the Virginia Glee Club was in room B-012, on the same level as the auditorium's stage entrance. A small room adjacent to B-012 was the home of the Glee Club's music library.

The basement of Old Cabell Hall houses the Music Library.



  1. 1.0 1.1 Bruce, Philip Alexander (1921). History of the University of Virginia: The Lengthening Shadow of One Man. IV. New York: Macmillan. p. 267-279. 
  2. White, Stanford (1898). "The Buildings of the University of Virginia". Corks and Curls. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  3. Bruce, Philip Alexander (1921). History of the University of Virginia: The Lengthening Shadow of One Man. V pages=320-321. 
  4. "A. Thomson-Allen Restoration: The Organ at Old Cabell Hall". Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
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