Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

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Yesterday was unusually warm, with a high of 64 in Alexandria and 70 in areas south of us. To take advantage of the warmer weather, Ben and I took a road trip to Monticello, about a 2.5 hour drive from Alexandria.

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This was a garden pavilion, where Jefferson could sit and watch the weather come in:

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Before I arrived, I knew very little about Monticello, except that it was the home of Thomas Jefferson.

Monticello was built on top of a mountain to take advantage of the view, and you can see the surrounding countryside, including the University of Virginia, from the lawn.

The house was full of surprises:

  • The entrance hall was an educational space, where Jefferson displayed Native American artifacts from the Lewis & Clark expedition. In that time, most people didn’t travel far from home and wouldn’t be exposed to these items otherwise.
  • Jefferson’s bed wasn’t in his bedroom. It was in an alcove in the wall between his bedroom and the adjoining room.
  • His closet wasn’t in his bedroom either. It was above his bed in the wall and could only be accessed by a staircase.
  • The dining room didn’t have the one thing you’d expect: a dining room table. To save space, Jefferson had temporary tables brought out at mealtimes.
  • Two wine butlers were built into the dining room fireplace, so that finished bottles could be sent down to the cellar below and a new bottle sent up.

Monticello was a work in progress and took about 40 years to build. Jefferson’s wife never lived in the house, since she died before it was completed. They lived in a much smaller building next to the future site of Monticello. The temporary house wasn’t luxurious; the wood floor in Monticello’s parlor cost more than the entirety of their temporary home.

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