The surprise at Monticello is the vast spread of land surrounding the mansion and all it has to offer! Monticello is located in Charlottesville, Virginia and this monument is worth the trip!!
Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson who is better remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States. Monticello is an architectural and agricultural wonder! What exactly does Monticello have for travelers? Let’s take a look!!!
The house has three floors with the majority of the rooms on the first floor. Upon entering Monticello, the entryway catches your eye with items from Jefferson’s travels. One of the most fascinating sights in the Entrance Hall is the Great Clock. The clock had dual faces and an hourly ringing of a gong so loud that the people in the house could hear the sound along with the workers in the field. The clock is powered by two sets of cannon-ball weights which drives the clock’s ticking and eventually striking of the gong at the top of the hour. The weights are hung on ropes on either side of the clock and hang down through holes in the floor. On the sides, the days of the weeks are marked off. The ingenuity is amazing considering the time period!!
There are two bedrooms on the first floor. One is the Madison Bedroom which was frequently used by James and Dolley Madison on their visits to Monticello. The other bedroom called a chamber was the bedroom of Thomas Jefferson and his wife. The other rooms are the South Square Room (used for tutoring children), Library, Greenhouse, Cabinet (Jefferson’s Office), Parlor (for entertaining), Dining Room, and Tea Room.
The second and third floors were mostly bedrooms for other relatives, grandchildren’s bedrooms, and the Cuddy which was a hideaway for the children to escape from the 30 people that lived in the house. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the house. You can access the following link that show pictures and videos from the Monticello website.
After touring the house, the next impressive sight is to see the gardens that Thomas Jefferson started and maintained with his workers. There are flower, vegetable, and fruit gardens.The flower gardens are on the west lawn in front of Monticello which was depicted on the U.S. Nickel in 1938. There is a winding flower walk along with oval flower beds filled with variety of flowers.
The vegetable gardens span 1000 ft. by 80 ft. wide terrace of vegetables that fed the household and also served as an experimental lab for Jefferson. More than 70 different species with 330 varieties were grown on the property. In addition, there is a section that grew herbs for the kitchen along with medicinal herbs. I wonder if they were all legal by today’s standards!!
The fruit gardens or “Fruitery” as Jefferson called them consisted of the North and South Orchards. The North Orchard has 200 trees of apple and peach trees. The South Orchard has 400 trees of various fruits. There were two vineyards and “berry squares” that had gooseberries and raspberries. Overall, the Fruitery had 31 species of fruit with 150 varieties in the garden.
On a 5,000 acre planation, Mulberry Row was the industrial center that was worked by 400 enslaved people. In redoing Monticello, Thomas Jefferson hired white men to be masons, blacksmiths, and wood workers and to teach the enslaved workers a trade. There was a nailmaking operation where nails were hammered out by teenage enslaved workers so that nails could be sold for extra income.
There was a dairy, smokehouse, and a wash house on the plantation. Upon Jefferson’s death, he was highly in debt. An auction or dispersal sale was held six months after his death that sold the house, contents of the house, and 130 enslaved workers. In Thomas Jefferson’s will, only 5 enslaved people were freed. These 5 enslaved people were not in the same family and numerous families were separated.
Thomas Jefferson considered slavery a ‘moral depravity’ however profited from the institution of slavery. A far cry from the words that he wrote for the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson and the other founders were fearful of dividing a young nation and therefore, did not insist of abolishing slavery. A different time…
Thomas Jefferson Himself
Aside from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson has received accolades for three achievements, Declaration of Independence, Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the University of Virginia. Although we all learned in school that Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, I wasn’t aware that the Declaration of Independence travelled from it’s existence to 1952 to various states in the Northeast before landing at the National Archives in Washington D.C.
Jefferson wished that he would be remembered for the Statue of Religious Freedom. An interesting fact is that Jefferson made his own bible by cutting out the parts of the New Testament from The Bible that he believed in. He created his own version of the Four Gospels! Jefferson devoted his ‘autumn’ years in founding the University of Virginia as he believed that we needed universal education to better deal with the government.
Monticello is one of the most interesting landmarks that has many facets to hold your interest. It is well worth a visit to Charlottesville, Virginia and remember to bring your walking shoes as there is 5,000 acres!!!