General History of the Anatomical Theatre:

Jefferson’s original plan of the theatre still exists, and shows that the building had three stories: a top level for an octagonal theatre with tiered seating, a middle which functioned as a museum to house exhibits, and a lowest level that contained a charnel where cadavers could be stored and disposed of. The original building had a cupola and balustrade along the edge of the roof, and larger windows to help bring in natural light. Because of the nature of the building, it was built on the edge of the early campus on a steep slope, and opened for instruction in February of 1827. The museum was later turned into a lecture hall and displayed real and model skeletons, dissected cadavers, and dried body parts. In 1889 a fire burned the interior of the theatre and the anatomical models in the lecture hall. After the fire, the building was reconstructed, but it was different than Jefferson’s original design, and did not include the cupola or balustrade. The building was eventually demolished in 1939, after the construction of Alderman Library.

Below is a 3D representation of what the interior of the theatre looked like according to Jefferson's drawings. Scroll around and view the space as if you were standing in the center of the theatre where the dissections were performed on display for students sitting on the steps around you.

To see images related to the Anatomical Theatre please click here: Anatomical Image Gallery

The measured drawings below were created by the Historic American Building Survey after the Anatomical Theatre was torn down.  They are based on Jefferson's initial drawings for the buildings construction. The drawings are currently being held in the University of Virginia Special Collections Library.