Monticello Explained

Monticello
Location:Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Locmapin:Virginia
Lat Degrees:38
Lat Minutes:00
Lat Seconds:37.01
Lat Direction:N
Long Degrees:78
Long Minutes:27
Long Seconds:08.28
Long Direction:W
Built:1772
Architect:Thomas Jefferson
Architecture:Neoclassical
Governing Body:The Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Designation1:WHS
Designation1 Offname:Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
Designation1 Type:Cultural
Designation1 Criteria:i, iv, vi
Designation1 Date:1987 (11th session)
Designation1 Number:442
Designation1 Free1name:Region
Designation1 Free1value:Europe and North America
Designation2:NRHP
Designation2 Date:October 15, 1966
Designation2 Number:66000826
Designation3:NHL
Designation3 Date:December 19, 1960[1]

Monticello is a National Historic Landmark just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. It was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia; it is also, at his direction, the site of Jefferson's burial place.[2] The estate has been owned and operated, as a museum and educational institution, by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation since 1923.

The house, which Jefferson designed, was based on the neoclassical principles described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. It is situated on the summit of an 850feet-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain."

An image of the west front of Monticello by Felix Schlag has been featured on the reverse of the nickel minted since 1938 (with a brief interruption in 2004 and 2005, when designs of the Westward Journey series appeared instead).

Monticello also appeared on the reverse of the two-dollar bill from 1928 to 1966, when the bill was discontinued. The current bill was introduced in 1976 and retains Jefferson's portrait on the obverse but replaced Monticello on the reverse with an engraved modified reproduction of John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence instead. The gift shop at Monticello hands out two-dollar bills as change.

Monticello, along with the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Since 1923 it has been owned and operated by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

History

Work began on what historians would subsequently refer to as "the first Monticello" in 1768, on a plantation of 5,000 acres (2,000 hectares). Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion (an outbuilding) in 1770, where his new wife Martha Wayles Skelton joined him in 1772.

After his wife's death in 1782, Jefferson left Monticello in 1784 to serve as Minister of the United States to France. During his several years' tenure in Europe, he had an opportunity to see some of the classical buildings with which he had become acquainted from his reading, as well as to discover the "modern" trends in French architecture that were then fashionable in Paris. His decision to remodel his own home may date from this period. In 1794, following his service as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–93), Jefferson began rebuilding his house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09).[3]

Thomas Jefferson once added a center hallway and a parallel set of rooms to the structure, more than doubling its area. He removed the second full-height story from the original house and replaced it with a mezzanine bedroom floor. The most dramatic element of the new design was an octagonal dome, which he placed above the West front of the building in place of a second-story portico. The room inside the dome was described by a visitor as "a noble and beautiful apartment," but it was rarely used—perhaps because it was hot in summer and cold in winter, or because it could only be reached by climbing a steep and very narrow flight of stairs. The dome room has now been restored to its appearance during Jefferson's lifetime, with "Mars yellow" walls and a painted green floor.[4]

After Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, his only surviving daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph inherited Monticello. The estate was encumbered with debt and Martha Randolph had financial problems in her own family because of her husband's mental illness. In 1831 she sold Monticello to James Turner Barclay, a local apothecary. Barclay sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish Commodore (equivalent to today's admiral) in the United States Navy. A fifth-generation American whose family first settled in Savannah, Georgia, Levy greatly admired Jefferson. He used his private funds to repair, restore and preserve the house. During the American Civil War, the house was seized by the Confederate government because it was owned by a Northerner and sold, but Uriah Levy's estate recovered the property after the war.

Lawsuits filed by Levy's heirs were settled in 1879, when Uriah Levy's nephew, Jefferson Monroe Levy, a prominent New York lawyer, real estate and stock speculator and member of Congress, bought out the other heirs for $10,050, and took control of the property. Like his uncle, Jefferson Levy commissioned repairs, restoration and preservation at Monticello, which was deteriorating seriously while the lawsuits wound their way through the courts in New York and Virginia.

In 1923, a private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, purchased the house from Jefferson Levy with funds raised by Theodore Fred Kuper and others. They managed additional restoration under architects including Fiske Kimball and Milton L. Grigg.[5] The Foundation operates Monticello and its grounds as a house museum and educational institution. Visitors can view rooms in the cellar and ground floor, but the second and third floors are not open to the general public due to fire code restrictions. Visitors can tour the third floor (Dome), while on a Signature Tour.[6]

Monticello is the only private home in the United States that has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From 1989 to 1992, a team of architects from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) created a collection of measured drawings of Monticello. These drawings are held by the Library of Congress. The World Heritage Site designation also includes the original grounds of Jefferson's University of Virginia.

Among Jefferson's other designs are Poplar Forest - Jefferson's private retreat and the home near Lynchburg which he intended for his daughter Maria, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond.

Decoration and furnishings

Much of Monticello's interior decoration reflect the personal ideas and ideals of Jefferson.[7]

The original main entrance is through the portico on the east front. The ceiling of this portico incorporates a wind plate connected to a weather vane, showing the direction of the wind. A large clock face on the external east-facing wall has only an hour hand since Jefferson thought this was accurate enough for outdoor laborers.[8] The clock reflects the time shown on the "Great Clock", designed by Jefferson, in the entrance hall. The entrance hall contains recreations of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The floorcloth here is painted a "true grass green" upon the recommendation of artist Gilbert Stuart in order for Jefferson's 'essay in architecture' to invite the spirit of the outdoors into the house.

The south wing includes Jefferson's private suite of rooms. The library holds many books in Jefferson's third library collection. His first library was burned in a plantation fire, and he 'ceded' (or sold) his second library in 1815 to the United States Congress to replace the books lost when the British burned the Capitol in 1814.[9] This second library formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress.[9]

As "larger than life" as Monticello seems, the house has approximately 11000square feet of living space.[10] Jefferson considered much furniture to be a waste of space, so the dining room table was erected only at mealtimes, and beds were built into alcoves cut into thick walls that contain storage space. Jefferson's bed opens to two sides: to his cabinet (study) and to his bedroom (dressing room).[11]

The west front (illustration) gives the impression of a villa of modest proportions, with a lower floor disguised in the hillside.

The north wing includes two guest bedrooms and the dining room. It has a dumbwaiter incorporated into the fireplace, as well as dumbwaiters (shelved tables on castors) and a pivoting serving door with shelves.

The Slave Quarters on Mulberry Row

Jefferson located one set of his slaves' quarters on Mulberry Row, a one-thousand foot road of slave, service, and industrial structures. Mulberry Row was situated three-hundred feet (100 m) south of Monticello, with the slave quarters facing the Jefferson mansion. These particular slave houses were inhabited by the slaves who worked in the mansion or in Jefferson's manufacturing ventures, and not by those who labored in the fields.

Archaeology of the site shows that the rooms of the slave houses were much larger in the 1770s than in the 1790s. There is disagreement as to whether this indicates that more slaves were crowded into a smaller space or that fewer people lived in the smaller space.

Earlier slave houses had a two-room plan, one family per room, and with a single, shared doorway to the outside. But from the 1790s on, all rooms/families had independent doorways and most of the houses are free-standing, single-room structures.

At the time of Jefferson's death, some of Jefferson's slave families had labored and lived for four generations at Monticello.[12]

In February 2012, Monticello opened a new outdoor exhibit: Landscape of Slavery: Mulberry Row at Monticello, to convey more about the lives of the hundreds of slaves who lived and worked at the plantation.[13]

Outbuildings and plantation

The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilions to the north and south. A row of outhouse buildings (dairy, wash houses, store houses, a small nail factory, a joinery etc.) and slave dwellings known as Mulberry Row lay nearby to the south. A stone weaver's cottage survives, as does the tall chimney of the joinery, and the foundations of other buildings. A cabin on Mulberry Row was, for a time, the home of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who is widely believed to have had a 38-year relationship with the widower Jefferson and to have borne six children by him, four of whom survived to adulthood. The genealogist Helen F.M. Leary concluded that "the chain of evidence securely fastens Sally Hemings's children to their father, Thomas Jefferson."[14] Later Hemings lived in a room in the "south dependency" below the main house.

On the slope below Mulberry Row, slaves maintained an extensive vegetable garden for Jefferson and the main house. In addition for to having flowers for display and producing crops for eating, Jefferson used the gardens of Monticello for experimenting with different species. The house was the center of a plantation of tended by some 150 slaves. There are also two houses included in the whole.

In recent decades, the TJF has created programs to more fully interpret the lives of slaves at Monticello. Beginning in 1993, researchers interviewed descendants of Monticello slaves for the "Getting Word Project", a collection of oral history that provided much new insight into the lives of slaves at Monticello. (Among findings were that no slaves adopted Jefferson as a surname, but many had their own.[15])

New research, publications and training for guides has been added since 2000, when the Foundation's Research Committee concluded it was highly likely that Jefferson had fathered Sally Hemings' children. Some of Mulberry Row has been designated as archeological sites, where excavations and analysis are revealing much about slave life at the plantation. In the winter of 2000-2001 the slave burial ground was discovered. In the fall of 2001 the Thomas Jefferson Foundation had a commemoration of the grounds in which the names of known slaves of Monticello were read aloud. Additional archeological work is providing information about African-American burial practices.[16] In 2003 Monticello welcomed a reunion of descendants of Jefferson from both the Wayles' and Hemings' sides of the family.[17] Additional and larger reunions have been held.

In 2004, the trustees acquired the only property that overlooks Monticello, the taller mountain that Jefferson called Montalto, but known to Charlottesville residents as Mountaintop Farm, Patterson's or Brown's Mountain. To prevent development of new homes on the site, the trustees spent $15 million to purchase the property. Jefferson had owned it, and in the 20th-century, its farmhouses were divided into apartments for many University of Virginia students. The officials at Monticello had long considered the property an eyesore, and planned to buy it when it came on the market.[18] Monticello now charges $20 for adults and $7 for children to visit the top of the mountain and allows admission to the area only from May to October.[19]

Architecture

The house is similar in appearance to Chiswick House, a Neo-Palladian house built in 1726-9 in London.

Monticello was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America,[20] in a tour which included the Dome Room, which is only open to the public during a limited number of tours each year, and Honeymoon Cottage.

Replicas

There is a replica of Monticello in Chickasha, Oklahoma.

The entrance pavilion of the Naval Academy Jewish Chapel at Annapolis is modeled on Monticello.

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Monticello (Thomas Jefferson House). 2008-06-27. National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service.
  2. http://www.carolshouse.com/cemeteryrecords/monticello/ The Monticello Cemetery
  3. Web site: Monticello. National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior. 30 April 2011.
  4. Web site: Jefferson's Dome at Monticello. Kern. Chris. 2009-07-10.
  5. Fleming, Thomas. "The Jew Who Helped Save Monticello", The Jewish Digest, February 1974: 43–49.
  6. Web site: Evening Signature Tours. Monticello. 2010-07-09.
  7. Web site: A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson: Sunrise Design and Decor. Monticello.org. 2010-07-09.
  8. Web site: A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson: Entrance Hall - Design and Decor. Monticello.org. 2010-07-09.
  9. Web site: History - About the Library (Library of Congress). Loc.gov. 1987-09-14. 2010-07-09.
  10. http://www.monticello.org/house/house_faq.html The House FAQ
  11. Web site: Jefferson's Alcove Bed. Monticello.org. 2010-07-09.
  12. Web site: Changing Landscapes: Slave Housing at Monticello by Fraser D. Neiman, Director of Archeology for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. pbs.org. 2011-03-26.
  13. http://www.slaveryatmonticello.org Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty
  14. Helen F.M. Leary, "Sally Hemings's Children: A Genealogical Analysis of the Evidence", National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 89, No. 3, September 2001, p. 207 (165-207)
  15. http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/naming-patterns-enslaved-families "Naming Patterns in Enslaved Families"
  16. http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/honoring-ancestors "Honoring the Ancestors"
  17. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3077133/ns/technology_and_science-science/ Chris Kahn, "Reunion bridges Jefferson family rift: Snubbed descendants of black slave hold their own event"
  18. Web site: The Hook - Off Montalto, "It's all downhill from here.". 2004-06-03.
  19. Web site: Jeffersons's Monticello: Getting Tickets. 2007-02-17.
  20. Web site: Guide to Historic Homes of America.. Bob Vila. A&E Network. 1996. Bob Vila.