It opened with a flourish, a sylvan setting for commencements, May Day celebrations, concerts, plays, and the rituals of campus life. But nature had its way with the Mary Washington amphitheater, chipping at its Greek-style columns and graceful character as a century slid by.
Even in its darkest hour, with words like “decrepit,” “dilapidated,” and “dangerous” hurled its way, this refuge off Campus Walk drew visitors. The birches and oaks that enclose the amphitheater keep their secrets – of private thoughts, late-night trysts, promises spoken.
Now a major makeover is planned for this iconic campus spot. Thanks to a $1 million gift from Robert S. and Alice Andrews Jepson ’64, and two other significant alumni donations, nearly half of the estimated $3 million cost of renovations has been raised.
Architects, consulting with historic preservationists, plan restored and replaced elements, weather-resilient seating for 600 rising into spruced-up woods, and handicap accessibility. The project will modernize the amphitheater but preserve its character – with columns and pergolas – leaving it looking much as it did in the early 1950s.
“Everybody seems to have a special spot for the amphitheater,” said Mary Washington’s final May Queen, Sally Monroe Kelly ’68. She hadn’t expected such excitement from students and alumni over plans to repair and renovate the space. “Maybe we all spent some alone-time there. It’s hard to put your finger on it.”
Read more alumni memories of the amphitheater: