Just off I-64 in the rolling hills of central Virginia near Charlottesville is Monticello, the spectacular family home of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson, an extraordinary man, designed this extraordinary Roman neoclassicism house with, after his visit to France, influences from contemporary French architecture including numerous skylights.
The house tour covers the first floor, including views of the furnishings, art, books, gadgets and other objects that “reveal Jefferson’s unique mind.”
An extra treat for this art lover was the unexpected original portrait of Jefferson painted by Gilbert Stuart on exhibit over the fireplace in the South Square Room.
For this portrait, Jefferson sat for the noted portraitist in his Washington studio shortly before June 7, 1805. The “Edgehill” portrait is said to be “one of Gilbert Stuart’s best works and one of the most compelling portraits of Thomas Jefferson.” It was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1983 and the two organizations share possession of it.
After the formal 30-minute house tour, visitors are encouraged to take their time roaming the grounds looking at the gardens and other structures including the “dependencies.”
Jefferson’s design linked together spaces for working, living and storage beneath the main house, terraces and pavilions with an all-weather passage.
The hidden “dependencies” — including the wash house, carriage bays, horse stalls, ice house, storage cellars, kitchen, cook’s room, dairy, smokehouse and living quarters for some slaves–preserved views of the landscape above and kept domestic activities below, mostly out of sight.
Cost of touring Monticello between Nov.-Feb. is $17/adult; $8/6-11 yrs.; under 6/free. Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., year round. There is a separate parking lot for buses/RVs.
Photos: Monticello, Virginia, source: Moticello.org; ‘Edgehill’ portrait of Jefferson, source National Portrait Gallery; bottom: All-weather passage under Monticello. By Julianne Crane