James Madison Papers

John B. Richeson to James Madison, 2 October 1826

University of Virginia, October 2nd 1826.


It is with regret that I have to intrude myself upon you at your present meeting, but I conceive it to be a duty I owe to this Institution and to myself, to report to you in some way, the situation of the Tenement I occupy: The cellar to my Hotel is five feet below the surface of the earth; around it is a brick wall four feet off, to give light and air through the cellar windows—Whenever we have a heavy rain, a great deal of water falls between this wall and the cellar, and in consequence of their being no drain to let it off, the cellar floors are frequently covered with water; and on one occasion since my residency here, the floors during a heavy fall of rain were shoe deep in water! Every one must be sensible that this makes the kitchen on such occasions, which is the cellar, almost impracticable at the time to cook in, and in a great degree contributes to make my family sickly. A large drain to let off this water, would in a great measure, keep the cellar floors dry. Upon this lot there is no well or pump, which is a very great inconvenience, one which I believe no other Hotel keeper here is subject to.

All of my fire-places smoke badly, but the fire place of my dining-room smokes so much, that frequently in cold weather, we cannot without suffering considerably, keep a fire during eating hours. Franklin fire places, in the dining-room, sitting-room, and chamber, would relieve my boarders and my private family of this very disagreeable inconvenience. My house is much smaller than either of the other Hotels—I have not a room excepting the smoke-house to put any of my stores. All the Hotel-keepers are necessarily compelled to keep one horse or more, and therefore obliged to have stables; such as we have, we have had put up at our own expense.

At your meeting in October last, you were pleased to take into consideration the heavy rents we were bound to pay, and in a great measure relieved us of that heavy burden for that year. It was then, in my humble opinion, very justly decided that the rents should be paid in proportion to the number of boarders each tenant had under thirty, that number being considered sufficient to enable the tenant to pay full rent. There is as great a diversity of numbers of boarders in the Hotels now, as then; and to my view the same reasons exist for proportioning the rents in the same way the present, as the last year—Nor is there any reason to hope that it will be otherwise while the limit of boarders to each Hotel remain<s> at fifty. Under this regulation it might happen that four Hotels might board all the Students who could get accommodated with dormtories in the University, and the other two Hotel-keepers, no matter how deserving, might not be able to obtain one. This, however, is only a possible case, but would it not be well to guard against it? As I have had some experience in this business, permit me then, with very great deference to you gentlemen, to suggest the propriety of altering the present limit of boarders to each Hotel from fifty to thirty, until each gets the last mentioned number, and then to remove the limit. For my part, I should not regret under such an arrangement how strictly the conduct of the Hotel-keepers was scrutinized by the Faculty of Professors and the Visitors; and if they were found wanting in their duty in any respect in conducting their houses properly, for them to be subject to lose their leases. With sentiments of the highest respect and consideration, I have the honor to be, your obt. servt.

John B. Richeson

RC (ViU). Addressed to the Visitors of the University of Virginia.

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