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Love him or hate him, there's no denying that Thomas Jefferson was one of America's most interesting and important Founding Fathers. He was far from perfect, but his contributions to the Revolution and early America helped shape the country in many ways. Also, it's kind of cool that even though he was a lawyer by trade, he was also a self-taught architect (among other things) who designed his own house, which he called Monticello. It's still standing today and is a popular destination for history buffs and tourists alike. Whether you're interested in how the design of the estate ties into Jefferson's philosophy on government, or you just want to get lost going back in time, here are some of the reasons Monticello is one of America's most epic historic landmarks. 1. Just look at it! Thomas Jefferson built his estate on top of a hill in the mountains that had stunning views of the Southwest Mountains of Virginia. There are gardens (Jefferson was really interested in experimenting with different species of plants) and ponds (fun fact: that pond was always stocked with fish so Jefferson could have fresh fish on demand) and paths that enhance the beauty of the surroundings, and then there's the house itself. While it takes a lot of inspiration from French and Italian architecture, Jefferson also consciously sought to create something new and never before seen; a new kind of house for a new country. Oh, and a lot of the grounds, including the trail, are pet-friendly! 2. Look closer! Jefferson did pay attentiont to detail while decorating his estate. The entrance hall floorcloths are grass green, to bring the outdoors inside, and its lined with recreations of objects collected by Lewis and Clark on their journey across the continent (as a result of Jefferson's Louisana Purchase). Another unique feature of the estate is the revolutionary terraced hanging garden he used to grow vegetables. 3. Mulberry Row It cannot be forgotten that Monticello was a plantation, and that slaves endured inhumane conditions while working there. Jefferson had some complicated and interesting views on the topic of slavery, but at the end of the day, he was still a slave owner. Recently, a lot of work has been put in to learning more about what life was like for the hundreds of slaves at Monticello, including archaeological excavations, the development of new exhibits, and memorials. When visiting, make sure to visit Mulberry Row, where many of the slave cabins are located. The slave burial ground has also recently been located, and its discovery was marked with a ceremony where all the names of Jefferson's known slaves were read aloud. 4. Exit through the gift shop The nickle isn't the only US currency to feature Monticello. The old two-dollar bill, produced from 1928 to 1966, had Jefferson's portrait on the front and Monticello on the back. The current two-dollar bill has replaced the picture on Monticello with a famous recreation sketch of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Even though Monticello lost its coveted spot on the back of the bill, the estate's gift shop still makes it a point to give out $2 bills as change, so stop by and purchase something so you can get a good look at the unusual bill. 5. Sunset Tour You could do the standard tour, which lasts about 35 minutes and gives you access to the first floor and the estate, or you can go a little more in-depth and take the "behind the scenes" tour which lets you upstairs, but the coolest experience they offer is the Sunset Tour. You arrive in the late afternoon and tour the whole house and estate, and then watch the sun set behind the hills. Something about that golden hour light makes you feel like you've stepped back in time, and makes the whole place look even better. It's a little pricier, but if you're going to visit, you may as well do it right! 6. The University of Virginia Combined, Monticello and the University Of Virginia, both designed by Thomas Jefferson and located about 5 miles from one another, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While Monticello is breathtaking, the amount of thought and effort Jefferson put into designing the University of Virginia is mind-boggling. Like with his home, he took the traditional layout of a college and elevated it into something entirely new and different. If you're really interested in Jefferson, or architecture, or history, it's worth it to check both out! -Roadtrippers Situated on a mountaintop outside Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello, a 5,000-acre plantation, was the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. Monticello is the only historic house in the U.S. on the United Nations' World Heritage List. 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 (1790–93), Jefferson began rebuilding his house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09). Although generally completed by 1809, Jefferson continued work on the present structure until his death in 1826. For almost 90 years, Monticello has been maintained and kept open to the public by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., which owns over 2,500 acres of Jefferson's 5,000-acre plantation. As a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation, the Foundation receives no ongoing federal, state, or local funding in support of its dual mission of preservation and education.
A beautiful, surreal, ethereal place, even in the deepest heat of summer. My only regret was that I didn't have more time to spend there. Attractions for literature enthusiasts, botanical sorts, the historically interested, Jane Austen inspired romantics, conspiracy theorists, and the kids these people drag along to these places. Gorgeous paths, gardens, architecture and views. Can't recommend it enough.
A must see if you are in the area.
Beautiful place to visit. Make sure to get a ticket before going. We had to wait two hours before our house tour. The grounds, fortunately, are beautiful. Wish we could have spent more time.
Several historical tours of presidential houses in VA - there are a couple more within a few miles - one (Ashlawn Highland) is only 2 miles away - could make a several day trip like this. Also a neat place for lunch is Michie Tavern on the hillside right next to Monticello - has a nice gift shop with a grist mill, log cabins, hiking trails, etc... and if in the right season there is a nice apple orchard on top of the mountain within 2 miles (Carter's). Don't forget the Blue Ridge Parkway (free going south) and Shenandoah National Park (fee required going north) is only 22 miles away.
An absolute must see. I spent the extra money for the "Behind the Scenes House Tour" and it was fantastic. I recommend purchasing this tour in advance. The guide was informative and friendly. I wish my family and I could have spent more time walking the grounds.
The inside tour is very nice but I particularly liked the self-guided tour of the grounds/gardens I took afterwards. A gorgeous place filled with history.
We got a really great tour of Thomas Jefferson's home during our summer visit. Thomas Jefferson drafted the plans for his home and drew inspiration from the Romans and his visit to Paris. He was a pretty brilliant guy.
There was a slavery tour as well as a house tour. Since it was a busy day, our house tour had a two hour wait, but meanwhile there is plenty to do. We joined a slavery tour and walked the grounds. The house tour is about an hour and our guide was great.
Hands down, just amazing. The guided tour is filled with information I didn't know, and the grounds are just beautiful. Much more than I expected! Worth the time and money. Will return again!
We went for the Heritage Harvest Festival, and purchased the home tour too. It was a good choice for us. My eight year old loved every minute of it. The tour guide of the house was great, and the festival had plenty of activities for children.
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Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
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