Dr. Lambeth & His Stadium

Almost 4 years ago, when a few fellow Wahoos were searching for an outlet for their late night ramblings about Virginia Athletics, they knew that it was time to take it to the Internet. But first up on their list of things to do: a name. There was a lot of back and forth, arguments, name calling, and sessions adjourning to the local tavern, where the discussion continued. Finally one brave soul pulled out the 'University of Virginia Football Vault' and it took all of 5 minutes to come to a decision. Thus ‘Lambeth Field’ was created.

But it was not just an arbitrary choice. They were very mindful of the weight that name carried. Dr. William Lambeth was not only an instrumental figure to the University, but to all of collegiate athletics.

Flash forward to 2013. When Kevin Edds, the Writer/Director of the film ‘Wahoowa: The History of Virginia Football’ learned that the stadium that bears his name had no formal recognition for Dr. Lambeth’s accomplishments, he got to work. This Saturday, betwixt UVa Reunions and the Baseball team trying to make it to Omaha, there will be a great ceremony at 9am at Lambeth Stadium honoring this distinguished figure. In a letter to us here at Lambeth Field, Kevin Edds talked about the history around this event:

“I had the pleasure to learn the story of Dr. William Lambeth and his love for the University of Virginia and its athletics programs through research for my documentary about UVa football, Wahoowa: The History of Virginia Cavalier Football.  Lambeth's contributions were not only to the University, but to collegiate athletics as a whole, yet I was surprised to find that there was no memorial for his accomplishments.  

Other important historical figures at UVa have statues, memorials, plaques, and buildings named after them.  While Dr. Lambeth's name adorns the dormitories on Emmett St. and is used to describe the 1913 "Lambeth Stadium" that sits behind them, few people know why.  The Colonnades at Lambeth Stadium have been in disrepair for decades and this historical site to college football's history goes relatively unnoticed.

I am happy to announce that the UVa Board of Visitors has approved the creation of a beautiful plaque, made of Buckingham slate, that will be installed at Lambeth Stadium this week, and unveiled this Saturday.  In writing the text for this plaque, it was important to tell not only the story of Dr. Lambeth's involvement with football, but his other achievements while a valued member of the UVa community.   Now, the significance of this site, and this stadium, will be known by all who pass by this plaque and read it.

I have also learned that funding on the effort to restore the Colonnades has reached a point where the University can now begin repairs.  This is fantastic news as I remember fundraising efforts for this as far back as 1990 when I first attended the University.  According to the UVa Architect's Office: "The scope includes replacing the concrete pavement, which had heaved terribly, painting and some carpentry repair, new lighting as well as improved drainage.  These improvements are truly significant, but there will be more work for the future, such as roof tile replacement (it's been patched over the years) and repairs to the stadium seating and handrails."

The timing is quite appropriate as this is the 100th anniversary of the completion of Lambeth Stadium and its grand opening against Vanderbilt in the "Football Classic of the South" in 1913.”

 

The plaque that will be on permanent display at Lambeth Stadium describes the importance of Dr. Lambeth to The University. It reads:

WILLIAM ALEXANDER LAMBETH, M.D.

1867-1944

Lambeth Field was built as the University of Virginia’s principal athletic field and is named for William Alexander Lambeth, who took both his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University, where he served on the faculty for 40 years. He was Professor of Materia Medica and Hygiene, Head of the Department of Physical Education, and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds. A landscape architect and an accomplished student of Italian art, language and culture, he was the author of one of the first serious studies of Jefferson as an architect.  He was affectionately known as the “Father of Athletics” at the University and was perhaps best known for his leadership in intercollegiate football. As a member of the 1910 NCAA rules committee, he helped save the sport from prohibition by establishing new regulations to promote safety. He is credited with the idea of dividing the game into four quarters to provide rest for exhausted players. 

The Lambeth playing field was laid out in 1901-1902; the colonnades and stands were built in 1911-1913.  It was on this site in the spring of 1910 that the University football team experimented with the new rules Dr. Lambeth had helped create – the first time the reformed modern game was ever played.

 

What a great honor for Dr. Lambeth and his family this weekend. If you find yourself around the area, please stop by and see the new renovations and this amazing plaque. Thanks to Kevin Edds for all his hard work putting this together. 

Hamilton Riley

About Hamilton Riley

Mild mannered contractor by day, sports blogger by insomnia.

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