December 4, 2011

Mr. Jefferson's Monticello

We finally made it to Charlottesville.  Several weeks ago we visited Montpelier, the home of James Madison.  There wasn’t enough time then to go to Monticello, but it just didn’t seem right for Tim to see Montpelier and skip Monticello.  Since we were coming back to Virginia anyway, a trip to Monticello fell into place.

Monticello is one of my favorite houses, and Thomas Jefferson is one of my favorite presidents.  The two fit together perfectly.  Jefferson planned every aspect of Monticello, and started its construction in 1768.  Over the next forty years, Jefferson would design, construct and remodel to create his “essay in architecture.”  The design broke away from the Georgian style favored by most of his contemporaries, and Jefferson embraced a more classical style, influenced by Italian architect Andrea Palladio’s Four Books of Architecture.

West Facade

East Facade
The interior of Monticello especially reflects Jefferson’s personality, particularly his distaste of wasting space.  Many of the conveniences he created are on display, including a self-closing door, a revolving bookstand and a polygraph or machine for copying letters.

Our tour was limited to the first floor, but rooms in the dependencies were also open.  The dependencies that contain the kitchen, smokehouse, stables and other areas for domestic work are hidden beneath the main house, terraces and pavilions.  This not only kept those activities mostly out of sight, but also preserved the views towards the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Dependencies on Both Sides of the Main House Are Concealed in the Hillside

South Dependency Wing
Monticello has evolved with the times and now includes a strong interpretive focus on the lives and contributions of the slaves who worked there.  Jefferson hated the institution of slavery, but he continued to own slaves.  He felt that slavery was an issue for future generations to deal with.

View from the Vegetable Garden

Garden Pavilion
I loved our visit to Monticello, especially on such a beautiful day, and am glad that we arranged our route to include it.

An Amazing House


  1. Sarah, Monticello is one of my favs too. We visited in the summer and the gardens alone were amazing. I know I'm late in posting this but it's a cold winter morning and these pictures are warming my heart! LV

    1. LV, Aww, that's so nice. Glad I could help! The gardens must have been gorgeous. That's the one thing I miss about traveling in winter. Sarah