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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

It's rather a slow news day and I have been searching every news site I can think of to find something to blog about. There were nothing that excited me enough to write anything, much less an entire posting, but I am watching the mini-series John Adams and it inspired me to write about not him but Thomas Jefferson.

Several years ago, on a return trip from Colonial Williamsburg, we stopped for an afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia at Monticello.

While in college, I had a History Professor who had written his dissertation on Thomas Jefferson and he taught me to love the man as well as he. Jefferson was a great, great man who died in abject poverty due to his poor management of his finances and his inventions. While he achieved greatness via his writing of the Declaration of Independence and as our third president, it was his "other life" that led me to admire him most.

Monticello is an architectural marvel. In the main entry, there is a calendar of sorts which extends from the top of the house to the bottom. Jefferson's study is graced with paintings of some of the greatest statesmen who lived at that time. His dining area has lazy susans in place for everything from the food to the wine and his sleeping quarters are nothing short of splendid. The most amazing thing about the house and its' gadgets is this: the house and every gadget in it were invented or designed by Jefferson, and none of them were patented. Jefferson invented the modern day plow and never received a patent for it.

Jefferson's Monticello was an extremely self sufficient plantation. On the grounds was a building/pumphouse and next to it was as small pond, built by his slaves. This pond was home to the fish they caught, in preparation for a dinner. The pond was always stocked in anticipation of Jefferson desiring fish for dinner and it was quite attractive. I took a photo of the building and I am inserting it here. (This is a really fuzzy photo that looks better in person. I am adding it here as a link to one of my photo sites, Webshots. I would post it here like I did the other one but Wenbshots seems to feel they own my photos once I post them on there. I am looking into how to remove them from Webshots so I may have them on a site which allows me to download my own photos for my own use. If you wish to see a better photo, go to

Jefferson admired those around him. When he admired someone enough, he commissioned a portrait of them to hang in his home. It is because of these paintings visitors are able to know the likeness of the Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, et al.

While the house is awe inspiring, the grounds are breathtaking. Built on the top of a mountain, Monticello has a view, in all directions, that extends for miles. Never have I been in a place more serene.

Jefferson was a horticulturalist and agriculturalist, always pursuing the "perfect" crops and flowers. He experimented constantly on his plants, crossing them with each other searching for plants that would not just survive but thrive in the Virginia heat and humidity, as well as its cold winters. Every plant on the property is a descendant of Jefferson's original plants, for sale in the gift shop on the grounds as well as by online shopping.

On my father's side, his Tobin line came from Virginia, roughly Culpepper County, around 1853, per my research. It must have been this that caused me to feel that day that I had come home. On the grounds, in the midst of the gardens, is a gazebo overlooking the valley. There are two chairs there in which to sit and ponder the beauty laid out before you, for it is beautiful. As I stood there looking at everything and nothing a sense of peace overcame me. I heard the birds singing, I remember seeing people moving around me, both in the gazebo and on the grounds below, but all I can clearly remember was my inner voice telling me I was home.

Though there are still many historical sites I have yet to see, though there are many I have already seen, Monticello is by far my favorite place and I'd love to go again before I leave this plane.