Day two (and the final day) of visiting the houses of the Founding Fathers. Today was Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. We woke up in Charlottesville, Virginia at a Hampton Inn and took advantage of the free breakfast. Then checked out and made about a 20 minutes drive out to Monticello.
You approach Monticello on a climbing road that eventually has a turn that takes you across a stone bridge to a shady parking area. You purchase your tickets ($15 adults, $6 children (6-11)) and then you can board a shuttle to the top of the hill where the mansion and gardens are. The tickets contain a time that you will be touring the house. For those that are very organized, you can purchase your tickets for a specific time online. We arrived around 0845 and our tickets were for 0910. By the time we rode the shuttle to the top, made a pit stop and looked around for a minute or two, it was time to go through the house.
The house tour took about 30 minutes, and leads you through most all the rooms on the ground floor of the house. The most interesting rooms are the entry parlor, and then the combination of the book room, the office and Jefferson’s bedroom. The entry parlor has an assortment of stuff hanging from the walls. There are antlers that Lewis and Clark sent back from their expedition, maps, rugs and other assorted items would allow someone stuck here to stay busy for quite some time examining the items. And that was apparently the purpose of the room. According to the guide, numerous people would come to visit Jefferson without and appointment. They might wait three to four hours in this room to see him, so he decorated the room so that they could stay busy.
The book room, office and bedroom are all connected along one side of the house. The book room is floor to ceiling shelves and filled with books. Currently a small number of them are the ones that actually belonged to Jefferson, but the titles on the shelves are the ones he had on the shelves based on inventories that are available. Considering what it took to publish a book in the 1700s it is an impressive collection. The office has a collection of items, surveying and navigation tools, a telescope, writing tools and so forth. The office and the bedroom are connected by a door and the bed. Jefferson’s bed actually sits in an alcove that joins the office and the bedroom. If he got up on one side of the bed he would be in the office, on the other he would be in the bedroom.
After the House tour, we walked over and took the Plantation Life tour, which was oriented around the life of slaves at Monticello. This was about a 40 minute tour that involved walking along “Mulberry Row” which was about a quarter-mile path located between the house and the gardens where there were slave quarters, blacksmith shop, carpentry shop, stables and the other functions that were necessary to keep the plantation running. One interesting contrast in Jefferson and Washington. While both apparently came to disapprove of slavery, upon their deaths their actions were quite different. Washington freed all his slaves upon his death, and left stipends for some of the older ones to support them in their old age. Jefferson freed only five of his slaves upon his death, in at least one case (per the stories told by the guide) breaking up a family by freeing the husband, but not the wife and children.
We finished our visit to Monticello by walking around the gardens a bit, then down to Jefferson’s burial place. There is then a trail of about one-third of a mile that is all downhill that takes you to the parking area.