2 On The Road Blog

After 12 years of full-time rving, we've sold our truck and trailer but we're still traveling. Email us at wowpegasus@hotmail.com if you would like to contact us.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Click to enlarge.

One of the first things I learned when we got here is that I've been mispronouncing the name.  The ending is Chell-o like the musical instrument not cell-o. 

We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but there are pictures from displays later on in this post that show what the inside looked like.


We got a brochure when we paid to see the house and here's what it said about this room. "This small room is the only one on the main floor dedicated solely to Jefferson's family members.  Jefferson's eldest daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, who lived at Monticello with her large family during her father's retirement years, used it as her sitting room and office, and as a classroom for her children.  From this room, Martha oversaw the household and domestic activities on the plantation - including, in the main house, approximately 15 enslaved people working as housemaids, cooks, manservants, ladies' maids, child-minders, waiters, and porters.  Silhouettes of Jefferson family members hang on the walls.  Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton, died in 1782 at the age of 33.  He described their marriage as "ten years of unchequered happiness."  He never remarried.  Of their six children, only two - Martha and Mary- lived to adulthood.  Mary Jefferson Eppes died in 1804 from complications of childbirth, but Martha and most of her 11 children lived at Monticello from 1809 to 1826."

From the brochure, "Like most Americans of their time, the Jefferson family and their guests ate two main meals a day: breakfast was served around 8 in the morning and dinner at about 4 in the afternoon.  Tables were arranged according to the number of people present.  When the tables were not in use, they were folded up and pushed against the wall.  The tea room was a pleasant seating area for wine and evening refreshments after dinner.  During Jefferson's retirement, enslaved cooks Edith Fossett and Frances Hern prepared food in the kitchen in the cellar of the house.  Butler Burwell Colbert, assisted by young male waiters, served in the dining room.  Food at Monticello was more varied than standard Virginia plantation fare, blending French influences with Anglo-Colonial and African American traditions."

From the brochure, "If you had visited Monticello in Jefferson's time, you would have been greeted in this grand two-story room by Burwell Colbert, Jefferson's enslaved butler, or by one of the enslaved houseboys.  In the Hall, Jefferson displayed Native American objects given as diplomatic gifts to Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean, a journey planned by President Jefferson.  The Indian objects took their places amid his wide-ranging collections, which included European art, maps of Virginia and the known continents, and the bones, fossils, horns, and skins of extinct and living North American animals.  The Great Clock displays the time as well as the day of the week."  The clock has a face inside and one outside.  The weights in the corner to the right of the door indicate what day of the week it is.  The room is not tall enough for the whole week so Saturday is in the basement.  I have photos of the outside of the clock and the Saturday in the basement later in this post.

Jefferson had the beds build into alcoves in all the bedrooms.  His actually had an opening on each side so he could get out on either side of the bed.  From the brochure, "Every day, Jefferson spent time reading and writing in his cabinet, or study.  His desk holds a polygraph, a copying machine with two pens.  When Jefferson wrote with one pen, the other made an exact copy.  Jefferson saved copies of almost all the approximately 19,000 letters he wrote in his lifetime.  Jefferson's bed was in an alcove between the cabinet and the bedroom.  The design was a space-saving idea he borrowed from France.  Directly above was a tall ventilated space for storing clothing; it was reached by a ladder through a door at the head of the bed.  Jefferson died in this room on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.  The second president of the United States and Jefferson's political adversary and also friend, John Adams, died the same day in Massachusetts." 

We were told the skylights leaked a lot.

Click to enlarge.

From the brochure, "North Terrace and Pavilion.  This raised walkway, one of two terraces at Monticello, was known as the "public terrace," a spot that visitors called "a favorite promenade in the evening and in damp weather."  Beneath the terraces lie work spaces where the enslaved workers performed the tasks necessary to keep the house running.  At the end of this terrace sits the North Pavilion, completed in 1808.  Thomas Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, occasionally used the North Pavilion as a study."

West side of the house facing the gardens

"South Terrace and Pavilion.  This terrace, reserved for Jefferson and his family, leads to the South Pavilion, the first building erected on the mountaintop.  Jefferson lived there from November 1770, when the first Monticello was under construction.  he and his wife, Martha, started their married life in the pavilion's upper room in 1772."

The book room is behind the windows on the south side of the house.  From the brochure" Jefferson kept his library of 6,700 books in this room in his private apartment, or suite.  During the War of 1812, Jefferson, by then greatly in debt, sold his library to the nation; his books became the nucleus of the present Library of Congress.  Shortly after the sale, Jefferson wrote to John Adams, "I cannot live without books," and he began buying more.  After his death, much of his library was sold to pay his debts, along with the house, most of its contents, and the enslaved workers.  Today, only a few original volumes remain from the retirement library at Monticello.  The other books here are the same titles and editions as the originals.  Jefferson firmly believed that educated citizens were essential to the survival of democracy.  To create such an educated citizenry, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1817."

Door into Jefferson's greenhouse.

The views were the reason Jefferson built on this hill.

Inside the South Pavilion

We saw this propped up tree on the mountaintop.  It looked completely dead on the bottom but the top was fully leafed.

The Great Clock over the front door that also has a face in the inside hall.

From the brochure, "A striking aspect of Jefferson's design for Monticello is the incorporation of the "dependencies," or essential service rooms, so that they were easily accessible, without the need to venture outdoors.  They were invisible from the public spaces of the house.  Two wings, with kitchen, smokehouse, dairy, ice house, and carriage bays, are connected by an all-weather passageway at the cellar level.  Along this passageway are spaces for the storage of food, beverages, and firewood.  In this passageway and in these dependencies the lives of Jefferson family members intersected with the lives of the enslaved African Americans who worked on the plantation as well as in the house."

The South Passage.

The stables of the north dependency

From the brochure, "Sally Hemings (1773-1835), a member of the large Hemings family, was an enslaved lady's maid at Monticello.  DNA test results in 1998 indicated a genetic link between the Jefferson and Heming families.  based on existing scientific, documentary, and statistical evidence and oral history, Monticello and most historians now believe that, years after his wife's death, Thomas Jefferson was the father of Sally Hemings's children: Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston Hemings."

From the brochure, "Thomas Jefferson is buried at Monticello with other members of his family in a grave site chosen by him in 1773.  This plot is owned by an association of Jefferson's descendants and is still used as a cemetery.  The epitaph he wrote for his tombstone included only: "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia."

Jefferson was reputed to be an inventor but most of the unique items he had were copies of inventions he had seen in Europe.

From the brochure," Monticello survives today because of the efforts of its two major owners after Jefferson's death: Uriah Phillips Levy, the first Jewish commodore in the United States Navy, and his nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy.  During their ownership, the Levys worked to restore and preserve the house.  In 1923, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation was founded and purchased the property from Jefferson Levy.  The Foundation has carried on the present day the tradition of preservation established by the Levy family."

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