University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium Charlottesville, Charlottesville City, Virginia, USA
Frederick Doveton Nichols (July 1, 1911 - April 9, 1995) was an architect, educator, and historian. He was a member of the Horace Walpole Society, elected in 1963, honorary member in 1992. He studied for two years at Colorado College and completed his undergraduate degree in fine arts from Yale University in 1935. He joined the National Park Service, becoming regional director of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). He became director of architectural studies at the University of Hawaii in 1941 and after service in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II, he returned to Hawaii. In 1950 he became a professor and later chairman of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia until his retirement in 1982. Nichols wrote several books on the architectural history of Georgia and Virginia and on Thomas Jefferson as a designer. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1963 and received the University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson Award in 1979 as well as other fellowships and awards. Nichols was a member of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the American Institute of Architects Task Force on the U.S. Capitol West Front, the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission, and the Monticello Restoration Society.
'Freddie' Nichols, born in Trinidad, Colorado, on July 1, 1911, was the son of Wilbur Oliver and Harriet Doveton Nichols. He received his M.F.A. from Yale University in 1935, transferring there from Colorado College, where he had completed two years from 1929 to 1931. His first job upon graduation, at the height of the great Depression, was as regional director of the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) with the National Park Service. It was this work that piqued his interest in architectural preservation and launched him on the career for which he became famous.
The Second World War interrupted his exciting new work by calling him first to serve on the National Committee for Aeronautics (1941-46), and then to actual military service with the United States Air Force (1943-45). He spent four years after the war as head of the architectural studies program at the University of Hawaii.
In 1942, just at the beginning of his professional career, Nichols married Jane Root. They had three children, two sons Frederick and Allen, and a daughter Elizabeth Nichols Kasper.
In 1950 Freddie Nichols took a position at the University of Virginia, from which he would retire after a long and fruitful career in teaching and preservation. Arriving as associate professor of art and architecture, he was promoted to full professor in 1960, and in 1967 was awarded the Cary D. Langhorne chair. As is customary in the academic world, Nichols put in his time as department chairman, first of art and architecture, 1965-70, and then of the division of architectural history, which he founded, after 1970. From his prestigious position at this university steeped in the world-famous tradition, architectural and otherwise, of Thomas Jefferson, Nichols was able to exert a strong voice and guiding hand to the post-World War II historic preservation movement.
His career at the University of Virginia provided many opportunities to work on subjects related to Thomas Jefferson, in whom he first became interested while conducting the HABS survey in the early years of his career. Nichols delved into the architectural and landscape-architectural drawings of Thomas Jefferson, and he published on this subject in several prestigious journals. In addition, he advised and wrote portions of the architectural sections of the Jefferson Papers edited by Julian Boyd at Princeton. In 1978, with Ralph Griswold, he published Thomas Jefferson., Landscape Architect., which was published by the University Press of Virginia.
As part of his research focus on Thomas Jefferson, Freddie Nichols served on the Monticello Restoration Committee starting in 1956, and in 1970 was elected a member of the board of The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, on which he served until just prior to his death. On this board he was the champion of an extensive restoration program of both the mansion and landscape at Monticello.
In the professional world, Nichols was best known for his work on Jefferson, especially the restoration of the Rotunda, the key architectural piece in Jefferson's academical village at the University. He directed the project, overseeing the preparation of the working drawings based on original plans, the bidding procedure, and the selection of the restoration contractors, as well as the fimdraising efforts to get the job done by the 1976 Bicentennial of this nation. The results are a masterpiece in historic restoration, and Nichols took great delight in having dismantled the 'remodeling' done by Stanford White in the early part of this century as well as later accretions.
Nichols's students, as well as the many professional and lay preservationists throughout the country especially in the South, remember him not only for his strong association with the works of Thomas Jefferson, but also for his monumental work The Architecture of Georgia, first published in 1957, and revised in 1976. He also wrote several other books and pamphlets including Catalogue of the Historic American Buildings Survey (1941); Fiske Kimball: A Biography (1959); and Thomas Jefferson's Architectural Drawings (1959).
Freddie Nichols's influence extended beyond the classroom. Much of it was exerted through his membership on important national committees, such as the National Fine Arts Commission, the Drayton Hall (South Carolina) Council, the Properties Committee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and as founding governor of the American Association for Architectural Bibliographers. He was invested as a fellow by the American Institute of Architects for his leadership in his field. In 1978 he was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society. When die Society held its semiannual meeting in Charlottesville in April 1985, Nichols led those Society members in attendance on a brief but thoroughly engaging tour of the Rotunda, tbe Lawn, and Pavilions.
Unlike many academicians, Freddie always found time to consult with individuals and committees at the grass-roots level. Among the sites on which he advised were Stratford Hall, Christ Church (Lancaster County, Virginia), and The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace (Staunton, Virginia). He was a prime mover in the acquisition and restoration of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's second home in Bedford County, Virginia, near Lynchburg.
Freddie Nichols lived his life much as a sculptor chisels a piece of wood. There were always strong goals and objectives relating to the final product, but along the way, one might have to take a different course around a knot or a particular type of wood veination.
The world of historic preservation lost one of its earliest and staunchest advocates with the death of Frederick Doveton Nichols on April 9, 1995. Through his teaching, written works, on-site consultations, and service on several state and national committees, Nichols influenced many people and saved a long list of important historic buildings.
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