Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello is emblematic of the man. In his day, the mansion was a center of thought, innovation, and invention. Walk through this house, and you begin to see the man behind it. Of course he was one of the brilliant minds behind the Declaration of Independence, and so much more.
When we first arrived, we had to wait for the small bus to take us up the hill for our scheduled tour, so we browsed in the gift shop for a moment or two before heading for the bus stop. It was in the gift shop that I learned more about the man: about the fact that Thomas Jefferson was not only an architect, but he was also an expert on plants and trees, and was the designer of the glorious flower gardens at Monticello.
As we waited at the bus stop for the ride, I stood face to face with a striking statue of Jefferson. He was tall (6’2″, I believe), but had very narrow shoulders, and appeared almost fragile. According to the well-read staff person at the bus stop, Jefferson was an “intellect,” but he could ride like the wind. In his house, we saw his riding boots, which had been made to fit either foot, to save time when he was preparing for his daily ride. Apparently, his legs were quite strong, giving lie to his fragile appearance. The statue features him at the age of 72.
The gardens of Monticello are beautiful, even in the winter. I can imagine that they are spectacular in the spring and summer. My favorite spot was the little garden house that overlooked the vineyards and the hillsides. Were I to live there, I imagine I would spend a lot of time sitting there and writing or studying.
My favorite room in Monticello was his bedroom: two rooms (a study and a bedroom) divided by a bed placed in a little alcove in the middle of the room. I loved the idea that he could roll out of bed on either side and be in the midst of his studies. The house also has skylights and windows everywhere, for natural lighting, which was necessary because lamps and fires were apparently not lit too early in a day, in order to save expenses. Fires weren’t lit until the room temperatures had dropped to 65 degrees, I think, so any sunlight would have been welcome as it streamed through the windows.
Jefferson was apparently a voracious reader, and one of my favorite rooms in his house was his library. The books in the library are not the exact books he owned; those were donated to the Library of Congress, or were lost in a fire, but every book in his library is an exact copy (to the edition) of those that he owned. I saw books on every subject I could imagine, though I saw no fiction. Apparently, being the gifted linguist he was, he read books in their original languages; how many men of public service do that today? Jefferson was a thinking man, a man intrigued by puzzles of the mind, by logic and the beauty of mathematics and science.
An avid inventor, Jefferson designed a clock that was visible for great distances off in the fields, but the intriguing part of the clock as the calendar aspect of it, visible from inside. As the clock ticked away, weights were raised on one side of the front door, and disappeared on the other. Whatever day the weight was currently touching on the wall was the day of the week. But, the design required some modification, as holes had to be cut into the floor to accommodate all the days of the week! (In the photo below, taken from Encyclopedia Britannica for Kids, you can see the weights in the far right corner.)
There is so much more to write about Monticello, and about Jefferson, but I’ll stop now. I simply highly recommend that if you get a chance, you visit. And if you can’t visit, research it online. It’s beautiful and intriguing.