This is about the Jefferson residence. For other uses, see Monticello (disambiguation).
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Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Monticello is the estate of Thomas Jefferson located near Charlottesville, Virginia. The house, of Jefferson's own design, is situated on the slope of a small hill (his "monticello") in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. An image of the west front of Monticello is featured on the reverse of the 5 cent coin of the United States of America, and on the version of the back side of the two dollar bill that was printed from 1928 to 1966.



Work began on Monticello in 1768, and Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion (an outbuilding) in 1770. The original style was based on the classical style of Palladian architecture with which Jefferson became familiar during his studies at The College of William and Mary . The original design was largely completed (except for porticoes and decorative interior woodwork) when Jefferson left in 1784 for extended travels in Europe representing the new Republic of the former British American colonies, Jefferson expanded his vision for Monticello to incorporate features of buildings and ruins he admired in his travels. Further work to the new design began in 1796, and the building of Monticello is considered to have been substantially completed in 1809 with the erection of the dome.

The Jefferson family sold Monticello to James T. Barclay, a local apothecary, in 1831, who quickly sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish American to serve an entire career as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and who greatly admired Jefferson. The house was seized by the Confederate government and sold, but recovered by the Levy family and acquired by a private, nonprofit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, in 1923. Monticello is now operated as a museum and educational institution. Visitors can view rooms in the cellar and ground floor, but the top two floors are not open to visitors.

Monticello is the only home in the United States of America that has been designated a World Heritage site. This designation also includes the original grounds of the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson. Called the Academical Village ( by Jefferson, Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., a University of Virginia historian, has written a fine dissertation on the construction of the original buildings at the University of Virginia. Jefferson also had a home near Lynchburg, Virginia called Poplar Forest and designed Virginia's capitol building in Richmond.

Decoration and furnishings

Much of the interior decoration and fitting reflect the ideas and ideals of Jefferson himself. The original main entrance is through the portico on the east front. The ceiling of the portico incorporates a dial connected to a weather vane on the room, showing the direction of the wind, and a large clock face (with hour hand only: Jefferson thought this was accurate enough for outdoor labourers) on the external east-facing wall reflects the time shown on the "Great Clock" (designed by Jefferson) in the entrance hall. The entrance hall contains articles collected by Lewis and Clarke on their famous expedition, and the floorcloth in the entrance hall is painted grass green, since Jefferson wanted it to feel as if he were still in the outdoors when he walked in the door.

The south wing includes Jefferson's private suite of rooms. The library holds many books in Jefferson's third library collection: his first library was burned in a plantation fire; he donated his second library to Congress to replace the books burned by the British, forming the nucleus of the Library of Congress.

Many of the rooms incorporate skylights to increase the natural light. Jefferson considered much furniture to be a waste of space, so the dining room table was only erected at mealtimes, and cleared away at other times, and beds are contained within alcoves within thickened walls, with the space around being used for storage. Jefferson's bed opens to two sides, to his cabinet (study) and to his bedroom (in reality a dressing room). His cabinet includes Jefferson's swivelling chair, identical to one acquired by George Washington from the same make which is displayed at Mount Vernon, but with the addition of twin candleholders, a travelling revolving bookstand, and a polygraph (copying machine) which enabled Jefferson to make exact facsimilies of his correspondence.

The parlour lies on the east-west axis of the house. Automatic closing double doors (an ingenious mechanism connects the doors, so closing one door automatically closes the other) connecting to the entrance hall to the east, and the parlour looks out over the lawn to the west. The west front (illustration) gives the impression of a villa of very modest proportions, with a lower floor disguised in the hillside.

The north wing includes the dining room, with dumbwaiter incorporated into the fireplace to bring wine up from the cellar, and dumbwaiters (shelved tables on castors) and pivoting serving door with shelves so guests would be interrupted by slaves and servants less often; and two further guest bedrooms with alcoved beds, one octagonal (the octagon was a shape favoured by Jefferson, and used repeatedly at another of his houses, Poplar Forest).

Outbuildings and plantation

The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilion to north and south. A row of functional buildings (dairy, washhouses, carpenters, shorehouses, etc.) and slave dwellings, known as Mulberry Row, lay nearby to the south, but little trace of these outbuildings remains.

The house was the centre of a plantation of 5,000 acres, tended by some 150 slaves.

See also

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