11.26.2017

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello


September 10th was the day I fell in love with Virginia on the road to Monticello. Lea and I woke up early this Sunday. Our tour for Monticello was to start at 10:15 in the morning, so we gave ourselves more than two hours for the long drive to Charlottesville from Arlington. The drive wasn't as bad as we'd thought it would be and after we left the city behind us we were met with little to no traffic. The skies were pure blue, the weather teased us with cool autumn temperatures, and the sights were breathtaking; the mountains, farm animals, family farms, homes, and long winding roads. It was our first road trip during our vacation and it was perfect.


When we first arrived at Monticello, we handed in our tickets and took one of the shuttle buses to the top of Monticello. We had the most beautiful view of the mountains. Later when we entered Thomas Jefferson's home we were met with Native American artifacts in his two-story entrance hall. Jefferson called this room the "Indian Hall" and it contained weaponry, hide paintings, pipes, quillwork, and more. There were also European sculptures and paintings, maps, natural history specimens, a model of an Egyptian pyramid, the bones of a mastodon, and other objects from the Lewis and Clark expedition. Elizabeth Chew, a former curator at Monticello, had the following to say about the room: "As a product of the Enlightenment, Jefferson's display represented not simply a desire to showcase the marvelous and bizarre, but to work towards a scientific understanding of the world through observation and study. In the Indian Hall, Jefferson sought to demonstrate, visually, that the products of North America could take their places alongside those of the Old World."

We took a tour of each of the rooms, some notable ones were his library, cabinet, tea room, dining room, bedchambers, and parlor. My favorite room was the parlor. The room was designed for reading, listening to music, playing games, and other social functions such as weddings and christenings. The walls were adorned with portrait paintings of men that Jefferson admired such as John Locke, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, George Washington, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Marquis de Lafayette. The room was as spacious as it was impressive. My other favorite rooms were the library and the cabinet. The library functioned as Jefferson's workplace where his books were easily accessible and the cabinet was similarly used as his workplace for study, writing, and scientific observation.


After exploring the inside of Jefferson's home we explored the grounds, gardens, cook's room, and the basement which included his wine and beer cellars. From there we participated in the Slavery at Monticello tour. It was more of a discussion about slavery and everyone was allowed to add to the conversation. We were also told stories about the slaves and their living arrangements, labor, family structures, and experiences at Monticello. We talked about Mulberry Row, a 1,000-foot-long stretch of land where domestic life and work coincided for free whites, free blacks, indentured servants, and enslaved people. The area was once covered by servant dwellings, workshops, storehouses, woodworking and ironworking shops, a smokehouse, a wash house, and a stable. It's where the blacksmiths, spinners, weavers, tinsmiths, nail-makers, carpenters, gardeners, stablemen, and servants of Monticello worked. Sometime in the future, Mulberry Row will be restored with the help of curators, historians, and archaeologists.


Our final stop was the Monticello graveyard. Jefferson had left instructions for what he desired on his grave. It was these three things that he considered his greatest achievements and what he wanted to be remembered for; none of which included the presidency, but instead his contribution to America's Independence, religious freedom, and scholarship. The obelisk above Thomas Jefferson's grave reads:

HERE WAS BURIED
THOMAS JEFFERSON
AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA


CHARLENE ZALE

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