Monday, June 30, 2014

Monticello Again

We planned on seeing both James Monroe's Ashlawn and Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.
Both were excellent with Monticello being more so.  I think we saw Monticello a couple of times in the 1990's, once on our own and once when my architect brother Brad and his family visited from Texas.

The house and estate at Monticello are the same, but the tourist part of the attraction has changed considerably.
There is now a much larger Visitor's Center, museum, gift shop and cafe near the upgraded and expanded parking lot.

We bought our tickets and had time to catch the introductory video in the theater.  Then we looked around before we boarded the shuttle up to the main attraction.

After the short ride to the top of the hill, we were met by a number of guides who marshaled us under a large shade tree.  Our docent met us there and started her presentation.
She was quite impressive in her knowledge about the history and hundreds of details about the house.
The weathervane on top of the house was connected to the inside of the portico and Jefferson could see the direction of the wind from inside the house in the Entrance Hall, North and South Square Rooms.
The bench on the porch in the background were his design also.

My impression of Monticello is that it was quite a masterpiece.  Jefferson seemed to be a huge mind that was always looking for ways to bring knowledge and culture to the common man.  His home is a museum of invention and laboratory of practical conveniences.  He was a proponent of detail.

It made my head spin at every turn.  The sun dial on the ceiling of the porch.  The block work around the door which were made to look like stone.  Each area and room of the house was a tribute to his thinking.  Although it was an eclectic collection of structure and purpose -- it was very beautiful and fit together.
Sometimes architect's works make you scratch your head and 'form over function' doesn't fit with my brain.  You either like the art form or you don't.  Here -- each room we moved through was a bit of a stunner.  If there were 10 items to show and discuss, it would have been impressive.  But there seemed to be hundreds of details and artifacts in each room we saw.  It was almost too much to absorb.
A few facts:
- The house is over 11,000 sq ft of living space
- It has 3 skylights
- There are over 43 rooms
- The highest room (Entrance Hall) is 18'6"

Part of the impact of the tour was the enthusiasm and command of the facts that the docent displayed.  She brought a level of excitement and knowledge that was noteworthy.  She enjoyed going through each room and was very well versed on lots more information and detail than we had time for.

The tour moved like clock work. Every few minutes our group would slide into another hallway or room just as another group was making there way out of the room and on to the next.  It was very well choreographed and though there might have been 100 people in the house at the some time, all the groups moved through quietly and efficiently.

Again, no pictures were allowed inside but I found these and more online

Entrance Hall
The hall was filled with artifacts of the American West and Indian lore, maps of what the world looked like at that time and hundreds of other items.

South Square Room
This was the family hub of the house and where Martha Jefferson spent much of her day.

Library Room/Book Room
Jefferson had over 7000 volumes in his collection.  After the British burned down Washington D. C. in the War of 1812, he donated much of his library to what became the Library of Congress.

Jefferson's Cabinet
This was his office and place for reading, writing, calculating, drafting and scientific observation.

Bed Chamber
He used space well in his home and his bed was tucked away between rooms.  The area above his bed was accessed by a staircase to a closet.  Nearby holes in the wall and ceiling were for ventilation and a skylight.

Dining Room

Here is where he had over 50 paintings of people he admired and used for historical conversation.  Included among them were Isaac Newton, Christopher Columbus, John Locke, Ferdinand Magellan,  La Fayette, James Madison, George Washington and John Adams.

The tour ended outside on the North Terrace.
And we walked around the beautiful grounds and gardens.

And we found an archaeological dig going on where the joinery used to stand.
Next, we walked down the cemetery
And then we walked back to the museum area and parking lot.
While at Monticello, we met a friendly couple and spoke with them for a few minutes before we left.
Mark and Dreama 

It was a great day at Monticello!  We enjoyed it thoroughly and could go back again anytime.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. Very nice tour. We've always loved to visit Monticello as well. It appears that the Visitor's Center has changed a lot since we were there last, also.

  2. Randy, you did a very nice job on this Monticello blog post! Just 28 miles from where I grew up.
    Where is the Lee monument on your home page?

  3. Great undate. That was one of our favorite tours. Thanks for the memories.