Monticello is one of the most famous US national landmarks, and is located not far from Charlottesville, VA. This was the beloved home of Thomas Jefferson, and he designed the house and property himself. Monticello was modeled on some of the neoclassical principles that were noted in some of the works by Andrea Palladio, who was an Italian Renaissance architect. The house is set on an 850 foot peak in the mountains that are called the Southwest.
Monticello comes from an Italian word that means ‘little mountain.’
History of Monticello
The first buildings of this plantation were begun in 1768.
The plantation that would become Monticello was 5,000 acres in size. Jefferson first lived in an out building in 1770.
His wife died in 1782, and Jefferson left Monticello to become the ambassador to France. Jefferson saw many classic style buildings in France, so he decided to model his own home based upon some of what he saw in France.
In 1794, Jefferson began to rebuild his Virginia home, the basis of which were some of the concepts he had picked up in France.
Jefferson continued to remodel and rebuild Monticello throughout his presidential years of 1801-09. Jefferson put in a center hallway in the house and also a set of rooms that were parallel to the main structure of the house. It ended up more than doubling its square footage.
He also took the second floor off of the house and decided to put in a mezzanine bedroom floor. The most impressive part of Monticello is the octagonal dome that you see in all the photographs. He put this over the west front part of the building instead of a 2nd story portico.
The room inside was called ‘noble and beautiful’ by some visitors, but it rarely was used by anyone. This is likely because it is very hot in the summer and freezing cold in winter. Also the room could only be reached by climbing a steep and narrow set of stairs. In recent years, the famous dome room has been repainted and restored to how it looked during Jefferon’s life.
Much of the interior decoration you see on your visit was a reflection of the ideas and tastes of Thomas Jefferson.
A large clock face is on one wall and it has only an hour hand. Jefferson thought that this was enough information for the laborers. Also, the south wing of the house has Jefferson’s own rooms. The library has many of the books from Jefferson’s third library collection of books. His first library was destroyed in a fire, and his second was sold to the US Congress in 1815. This 2nd library was the beginning of the Library of Congress.
The entire house of Monticello has about 11,000 square feet of living space.
Monticello is quite a fascinating place to visit, and the gardens are truly amazing to see in the spring and summer.
It is very much worth a visit the next time you are in Virginia.