Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Visiting Monticello has always been a dream of mine, and Thomas Jefferson one of my favorite American figures.  He was not only the author of the Declaration of Independence, United States Secretary of State, 3rd President of the United States and the founder of the University of Virginia, he admired men of the Enlightenment and art.  He traveled widely and ordered the expansion of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase and the famous expedition west of Lewis & Clark. 

After spending five years in Paris, France and traveling through France and Germany, Jefferson returned to Monticello and incorporated many ideas he learned abroad into his Monticello home: The domed ceiling, interior shutter and the first parquet flooring in America, among many other things.  He loved the ice cream he ate in France and brought back an ice cream maker.  

Thomas Jefferson also owned slaves.  Mulberry Row (above) was the "main street" of Monticello and bustled with activity of slaves who lived in tiny cabins lining the row and overlooking the vegetable garden (below).

On July 4, 1823, Jefferson died at Monticello at the age of 83 and was buried on the property, just down the hill from the house in a family cemetery. 

A life-size statue of Jefferson standing 6 feet, 2.5 inches tall near the visiting center.  Jefferson stood .5 inches taller than George Washington. 

Jefferson was a lover of books, and said his "favorite amusement is reading."  After the sacking of Washington, DC, by British forces and their burning many buildings in the federal city, Jefferson donated several thousand books, which are housed and on display today in the Library of Congress (below).  Later, in a letter to John Adams in 1815, he famously wrote, "I cannot live without books." At the age of 77, Jefferson also took a razor blade to two copies of the Bible, editing out all that was "contrary to reason" and compiled what became known as The Jefferson Bible

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