Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third
President of the United States, who began designing and building
Monticello at age 26 after inheriting land from his father. Located
just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the
plantation was originally 5,000 acres (20 km2), with Jefferson
using slaves for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops,
later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to
changing markets. Due to its architectural and historic significance,
the property 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. The
current nickel, a United States coin, features a depiction of
Monticello on its reverse side.
Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles
Italian Renaissance architect
Andrea Palladio and
reworking the design through much of his presidency to include design
elements popular in late 18th-century Europe and integrating numerous
of his own design solutions. Situated on the summit of an 850-foot
(260 m)-high peak in the
Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna
Gap, the name
Monticello derives from the Italian for "little mount".
Along a prominent lane adjacent to the house, Mulberry Row, the
plantation came to include numerous outbuildings for specialized
functions, e.g., a nailery; quarters for domestic slaves; gardens for
flowers, produce, and Jefferson's experiments in plant
breeding—along with tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field
slaves were farther from the mansion.
At Jefferson's direction, he was buried on the grounds, in an area now
designated as the
Monticello Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the
Monticello Association, a society of his descendants through Martha
Wayles Skelton Jefferson. After Jefferson's death, his daughter
Martha Jefferson Randolph
Martha Jefferson Randolph sold the property. In 1834 it was bought by
Uriah P. Levy, a commodore in the U.S. 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. In 1923, Monroe Levy
sold it to the
Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF), which operates it as
a house museum and educational institution.
1 Design and building
3 Decoration and furnishings
4 Slave quarters on Mulberry Row
5 Outbuildings and plantation
5.2 Land purchase
7 Representation in other media
11 See also
13 External links
Design and building
Jefferson's home was built to serve as a plantation house, which
ultimately took on the architectural form of a villa. It has many
architectural antecedents, but Jefferson went beyond them to create
something very much his own. He consciously sought to create a new
architecture for a new nation.
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.
Jefferson continued work on his original design, but how much was
completed is of some dispute. In constructing and later
reconstructing his home, Jefferson used both free workers, indentured
servants and enslaved laborers.
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 (1790–1793), Jefferson began rebuilding his
house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling
continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–1809). Although
generally completed by 1809, Jefferson continued work on the present
structure until his death in 1826.
Under the dome
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 interior is centered on two large rooms,
which served as an entrance-hall-museum, where Jefferson displayed his
scientific interests, and a music-sitting room. 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 and black checkered
Summertime temperatures are high in the region, with indoor
temperatures of around 100 °F (38 °C). Jefferson himself
is known to have been interested in Roman and Renaissance texts about
ancient temperature-control techniques such as ground-cooled air and
heated floors. Monticello's large central hall and aligned windows
were designed to allow a cooling air-current to pass through the
house, and the octagonal cupola draws hot air up and out. Moderate
air conditioning, designed to avoid the harm to the house and its
contents that would be caused by major modifications and large
temperature differentials, was installed in the house, a tourist
attraction, in the late twentieth century.
Before Jefferson's death,
Monticello had begun to show signs of
disrepair. The attention Jefferson's university project in
Charlottesville demanded, and family problems, diverted his focus. The
most important reason for the mansion's deterioration was his
accumulating debts. In the last few years of Jefferson's life, much
went without repair in Monticello. A witness, Samuel Whitcomb Jr., who
visited Jefferson in 1824, thought it run down. He said, "His house is
rather old and going to decay; appearances about his yard and hill are
rather slovenly. It commands an extensive prospect but it being a
misty cloudy day, I could see but little of the surrounding
After Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, his only official surviving
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
Monticello to James Turner Barclay, a local apothecary. Barclay
sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first
(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 and used his private funds to
repair, restore and preserve the house. The Confederate government
seized the house as enemy property at the outset of the American Civil
War and sold it to Confederate officer Benjamin Franklin Ficklin.
Levy's estate recovered the property after the war.
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 later member of
Congress), bought out the other heirs for $10,050, and took control of
Monticello. Like his uncle, Jefferson Levy commissioned repairs,
restoration and preservation of the grounds and house, 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 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.
Since that time, other restoration has been performed at
The Foundation operates
Monticello and its grounds as a house museum
and educational institution. Visitors can wander the grounds, as well
as tour rooms in the cellar and ground floor. More expensive tour pass
options include sunset hours, as well as tours of the second floor and
the third floor including the iconic dome.
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
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
Decoration and furnishings
Much of Monticello's interior decoration reflects the personal ideas
and ideals of Jefferson.
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 slaves. 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
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 an accidental plantation fire, and he 'ceded'
(or sold) his second library in 1815 to the
United States Congress
United States Congress to
replace the books lost when the British burned the Capitol in
1814. This second library formed the nucleus of the
As "larger than life" as
Monticello seems, the house has approximately
11,000 square feet (1,000 m2) of living space. 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
In 2017 a room identified as Sally Hemings' quarters at Monticello,
adjacent to Jefferson's bedroom, was discovered in an archeological
excavation. It will be restored and refurbished. This is part of the
Mountaintop Project, which includes restorations in order to give a
fuller account of the lives of both slave and free families at
The west front (illustration) gives the impression of a villa of
modest proportions, with a lower floor disguised in the
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 casters) and a pivoting serving door with
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 (91 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.
Monticello about slave labor
At one point, "Jefferson sketched out plans for a row of substantial,
dignified neoclassical houses" for Mulberry Row, for enslaved blacks
and white workers, "having in mind an integrated row of residences."
Henry Wiencek argues: "It was no small thing to use architecture to
make a visible equality of the races."
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. 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.
By the time of Jefferson's death, some slave families had labored and
lived for four generations at Monticello. Six families and their
descendants were 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
National Museum of African American History and Culture and
Monticello, it is the first exhibit on the national mall to address
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
Outbuildings and plantation
Jefferson's vegetable garden
Monticello Graveyard, owned and operated
separately by the
Jefferson grave at Monticello
The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilions to the north
and south. A row of outbuildings (dairy, a washhouse, store houses, a
small nail factory, a joinery etc.) and slave's quarters (log cabins),
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." 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.
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 18th
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
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. Additional and larger reunions have been held.
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
University of Virginia students. The officials at
Monticello had long
considered the property an eyesore, and planned to acquire it when it
Main article: Jeffersonian architecture
The house is similar in appearance to Chiswick House, a Neoclassical
house inspired by the architect
Andrea Palladio built in 1726-9 in
Representation in other media
Monticello was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production,
Guide to Historic Homes of America, 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.
In 2014, Prestley Blake constructed a 10,000 square foot replica of
Monticello in Somers, Connecticut. It can be seen on Rte 186 also
known as Hall Hill Rd.
A replica of
Monticello was constructed in Chickasha,
The entrance pavilion of the Naval Academy
Jewish Chapel at Annapolis
is modeled on Monticello.
Chamberlin Hall at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham,
Massachusetts, built in 1962 and modeled on Monticello, serves as the
location of the Academy's Middle School.
Completed in August 2015,
Dallas Baptist University
Dallas Baptist University built one of the
largest replicas of Monticello, including its entry halls and a dome
room. Approximately 23,000 square feet, it is the home of the Gary
Cook School of Leadership, as well as the University Chancellor's
On April 13, 1956, the U.S. Post Office issued a postage stamp
Monticello's image has appeared on U.S. currency and postage stamps.
An image of the west front of
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). It was also used as the title for the 2015
play Jefferson's Garden, which centred on his life.
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
Monticello on the reverse with an engraved modified
reproduction of John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence.
The gift shop at
Monticello hands out two-dollar bills as change.
West Front of Monticello
Vegetable Garden - 180 degrees
The Visitors' Center
Monticello facade and its reproduction on a nickel
a Nickel by Monticello
Monticello, the day after a snowstorm
In the dome room, wall detail
Inside the Pavilion at the Vegetable Garden
Moticello as portrayed on the reverse of the Jefferson nickel
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National Park Service
National Park Service (2006-03-15). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
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^ Peden, William (1949). "A Book Peddler Invades Monticello". The
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Slavery at Jefferson's Monticello: Paradox of Liberty Archived
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Monticello Association, private lineage society of Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson Lived Here." Popular Mechanics, August 1954,
"Life Portrait of Thomas Jefferson", from C-SPAN's American
Presidents: Life Portraits, broadcast from Monticello, April 2, 1999
Monticello, State Route 53 vicinity, Charlottesville vicinity,
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