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definition - Monticello

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Location Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Coordinates 38°00′37.01″N 78°27′08.28″W / 38.0102806°N 78.4523°W / 38.0102806; -78.4523Coordinates: 38°00′37.01″N 78°27′08.28″W / 38.0102806°N 78.4523°W / 38.0102806; -78.4523
Built 1772
Architect Thomas Jefferson
Architectural style(s) Neoclassical
Governing body The Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Official name Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iv, vi
Designated 1987 (11th session)
Reference # 442
Region Europe and North America
Designated October 15, 1966[1]
Reference # 66000826
Designated December 19, 1960[2]
Monticello is located in Virginia
Location of Monticello in Virginia
  Monticello and its reflection
  Some of the gardens on the property

Monticello is the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, who designed it. He was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres, with extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, with labor by slaves. At Jefferson's direction, he was buried on the grounds, an area now designated as the Monticello Cemetery, which is owned by the Monticello Association, a lineage society of his descendants through Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.[3]

The house, which Jefferson designed, was based on the neoclassical principles described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. He reworked it through much of his presidency to include design elements popular in late eighteenth-century Europe. It contains many of his own design solutions. The house is situated on the summit of an 850-foot (260 m)-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain." The plantation at full operations included numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, a nailery, and quarters for domestic slaves along Mulberry Row near the house; gardens for flowers, produce and Jefferson's experiments in plant breeding, plus tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field slaves were located further from the mansion.

After Jefferson's death, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph sold the property. After other owners, in 1834 it was bought by Uriah P. Levy, a commodore in the US Navy, who admired Jefferson and spent his own money to preserve the property. His nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy took over the property in 1879; he also invested considerable money to restore and preserve it. He held it until 1923, when he sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which operates it as a house museum and educational institution. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1987 Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.



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' 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).[4]

Jefferson 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.[5]

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 Northern officer[why?] and sold. Uriah Levy's estate recovered the property after the war.[citation needed]

Levy's heirs argued over his estate, but their lawsuits 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 had been deteriorating seriously while the lawsuits wound their way through the courts in New York and Virginia. Together, the Levys preserved Monticello for the American people for nearly 100 years.

  Monticello depicted on the reverse of the 1953 $2 bill. Note the two "Levy lions" on either side of the entrance. The lions, placed there by Jefferson Levy, were removed in 1923 when the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the house.

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.[6] Since that time, other restoration has been done at Monticello.

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.[7]

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

Among Jefferson's other designs are Poplar Forest, his private retreat near Lynchburg, which he intended for his daughter Maria, who died at age 25; 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.[8]

  In a time before refrigeration, Jefferson had the pond stocked with fish, to be available on demand.

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.[9] 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 the cross-country expedition commissioned by Jefferson to explore the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson had the floorcloth painted a "true grass green" upon the recommendation of artist Gilbert Stuart, so that Jefferson's "essay in architecture" could invite the spirit of the outdoors into the house.

The south wing includes Jefferson's private suite of rooms. The library holds many books from his 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.[10] This second library formed the nucleus of the Library of Congress.[10]

As "larger than life" as Monticello seems, the house has approximately 11,000 square feet (1,000 m2) of living space.[11] 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).[12]

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.

  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 slave cabins were occupied by the slaves who worked in the mansion or in Jefferson's manufacturing ventures, and not by those who labored in the fields.

  Plaque at Monticello about slave labor

[Archaeology]] of the site shows that the rooms of the slave cabins were much larger in the 1770s than in the 1790s. Researchers disagree as to whether this indicates that more slaves were crowded into a smaller spaces, or that fewer people lived in the smaller spaces.[13] Earlier slave houses had a two-room plan, one family per room, with a single, shared doorway to the outside. But from the 1790s on, all rooms/families had independent doorways. Most of the cabins are free-standing, single-room structures.[13]

By the time of Jefferson's death, some slave families had labored and lived for four generations at Monticello.[13] Six families and their descendants are featured in the exhibit, Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty (January to October 2012) at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, which also examines Jefferson as slaveholder. Developed as a collaboration between the National Museum of African American History and Culture and Monticello, it is the first exhibit on the national mall to address these issues.

In February 2012, Monticello opened a new outdoor exhibit on its grounds: 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.[14]

  Outbuildings and plantation

  Jefferson's vegetable garden
  Plaque commemorating Monticello Graveyard, owned and operated separately by the Monticello Association
  Monticello Graveyard
  Jefferson grave at Monticello

The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilions to the north and south. A row of outbuildings (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 household slave 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."[15] 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 to growing 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 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) tended by some 150 slaves. There are also two houses included in the whole.

  • Programming-

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 and their descendants. (Among findings were that no slaves adopted Jefferson as a surname, but many had their own surnames as early as the eighteenth century.[16])

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 at Monticello was discovered. In the fall of 2001, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation held a commemoration of the burial ground, in which the names of known slaves of Monticello were read aloud. Additional archeological work is providing information about African-American burial practices.[17]

In 2003 Monticello welcomed a reunion of descendants of Jefferson from both the Wayles' and Hemings' sides of the family. It was organized by the descendants, who have created a new group called the Monticello Community.[18] Additional and larger reunions have been held.

  • Land purchase-

In 2004, the trustees acquired Mountaintop Farm (also known locally as Patterson's or Brown's Mountain), the only property that overlooks Monticello. Jefferson had called the taller mountain Montalto. To prevent development of new homes on the site, the trustees spent $15 million to purchase the property. Jefferson had owned it as part of his plantation, but it was sold off after his death. 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.[19] Monticello now charges $20 for adults and $7 for children to visit the top of Montalto and allows admission to the area only from May to October.[20]


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

  Representation in other media

Monticello was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America,[21] in a tour which included Honeymoon Cottage and the Dome Room, which is open to the public during a limited number of tours each year.


A replica of Monticello was constructed in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the capital of the Creek nation.[citation needed]

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


  West Front of Monticello
  Vegetable Garden - 180 degrees



  On April 13, 1956, the U.S. Post Office issued a postage stamp honoring Monticello.[22]

Monticello has been a memorable icon, and its image has appeared on US currency and postage stamps. 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.

  See also


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15. http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natreg/docs/All_Data.html. 
  2. ^ "Monticello (Thomas Jefferson House)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail.cfm?ResourceId=632&ResourceType=Building. Retrieved 2008-06-27. 
  3. ^ The Monticello Cemetery, Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  4. ^ "Monticello". National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior. http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/journey/mcl.htm. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Kern, Chris. "Jefferson's Dome at Monticello". http://www.ChrisKern.Net/essay/jeffersonsDomeAtMonticello.html. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  6. ^ Fleming, Thomas. "The Jew Who Helped Save Monticello", The Jewish Digest, February 1974: 43–49.
  7. ^ "Evening Signature Tours". Monticello. http://www.monticello.org/visit/signature_tours.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  8. ^ "A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson: Sunrise Design and Decor". Monticello.org. http://www.monticello.org/jefferson/dayinlife/sunrise/design.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  9. ^ "A Day in the Life of Thomas Jefferson: Entrance Hall - Design and Decor". Monticello.org. http://www.monticello.org/jefferson/dayinlife/entrance/design.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  10. ^ a b "History - About the Library (Library of Congress)". Loc.gov. 1987-09-14. http://www.loc.gov/about/history.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  11. ^ The House FAQ - Monticello website
  12. ^ "Jefferson's Alcove Bed". Monticello.org. http://www.monticello.org/jefferson/dayinlife/sunrise/bedroom.html. Retrieved 2010-07-09. 
  13. ^ a b c "Changing Landscapes: Slave Housing at Monticello by Fraser D. Neiman, Director of Archeology for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation". pbs.org. http://www.pbs.org/saf/1301/features/archeology.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 
  14. ^ Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty
  15. ^ 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)
  16. ^ "Naming Patterns in Enslaved Families", Plantation and Slavery, Monticello, accessed 21 March 2011
  17. ^ "Honoring the Ancestors", Plantation and Slavery, Monticello, accessed 21 March 2011
  18. ^ Chris Kahn, "Reunion bridges Jefferson family rift: Snubbed descendants of black slave hold their own event", Genealogy, MSNBC, 13 July 2003, accessed 1 March 2011
  19. ^ "The Hook - Off Montalto, "It's all downhill from here."". 2004-06-03. http://www.readthehook.com/Stories/2004/06/03/newsOffMontaltoquotitsAllD.html. 
  20. ^ "Jeffersons's Monticello: Getting Tickets". 2007-02-17. http://www.monticello.org/visit/getting_tickets.html. 
  21. ^ Bob Vila (1996). "Guide to Historic Homes of America.". A&E Network. http://www.bobvila.com/BVTV/AE/America.html. 
  22. ^ Scotts U.S. Stamp Catalogue

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