Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Monticello is more than a historic home. The residence of founding father Thomas Jefferson is an American treasure, a labor of love, a picture of genius, and a modern museum center. Built just outside Charlottesville, the home of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its singular importance. The home has been open to tours since 1924, but you won’t find the same old tour here. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has worked to create engaging tour experiences that keep all ages interested.

Monticello History

Along with George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson helped guide and create the United States of America. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and followed that up by three decades of public service. He was Virginia’s governor, a diplomat to France, Secretary of State and then Vice President before he was the third president of the United States. During his term, 1801 to 1809, he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase and sent out Lewis and Clark. Then he retired and went on to start the University of Virginia. You would think he wouldn’t have time for much else, but Jefferson spent decades designing and tinkering with Monticello.

In 1764, Jefferson inherited the plantation and its 5,000 acres from his father. Until his death on July 4, 1826, Jefferson oversaw the expansion of the home and made it a reflection of his world. Over the years, Jefferson and his extended family lived here, as did some 150 slaves. As brilliant as Jefferson was with diplomacy and engineering, money was not his forte. He was deeply in debt at his death, and his house had to be sold. Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy and his nephew owned the house between 1834 and 1923 and did not make any major changes during this time. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation stepped in and purchased the home in 1923 and began the work of restoration that continues until this day. They quickly opened the house to tours, making sure each generation knows about the genius of Thomas Jefferson.

House Decorations & Furnishings

House Decorations & Furnishings
House Decorations & Furnishings  Image: imarcc (flickr)

As you walk from room to room, you’ll get a sense of what Monticello looked like when Jefferson and his family occupied the home. Some 60 percent of the items are original, while most of the rest are from the era or are reproductions. From the Bedchamber to the Dome Room and the Library, the furnishings are at once typical of the time and upgraded. Jefferson was a tinkerer and designer, so many of the items were upgraded in ingenious ways. Jefferson collected many spectacular works of art that are still on display.

Slave Quarters

Slave Quarters
Slave Quarters  Image: Tony Fischer Photography (flickr)

Even though it’s one-of-a-kind, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is a house of its time. It was built when slavery was legal, and slaves worked in the main house, tended to the fields, and worked on construction projects. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has worked to preserve and restore the slave quarters. During the warmer months of the year, tours of the slave quarters are included in the price of admission. They visit Mulberry Row, once a center of industry at Monticello, where slaves and freed men worked and lived in tandem.

Monticello Tours

Monticello Tours
Monticello Tours  Image: MikeSheridan89 (flickr)

Guided tours are an essential element of a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Besides the slavery tours, the price of admission also includes garden tours and access to the modern visitors center. For an additional fee, you could sign up for one of the more extensive tours, such as an evening house tour, a kid-friendly guided tour, or a visit to the garden. For those who really want to go they extra mile, they could book a private guide for a one-on-one tour.

Charlotteville Hotels

Charlotteville Hotels
Charlotteville Hotels  Image: Marriott

It’s easy to find lodging near Monticello and Charlottesville hotels are also convenient to the landmark. More than a dozen properties are found within a few miles of Jefferson’s home. You’ll find the familiar names, like the Sleep Inn and Courtyard By Marriott, which offer the traditional hotel experience and a lot of amenities. Vacation rentals also are available in the area, which give you more space and privacy for your overnight stay.

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