Jefferson was not only a politician and writer, he was
an inventor, a scientist, a linguist, a book collector.
 A self-taught architect, he started building Monticello
when he was 26, on a 5,000 acre plot his father had
given him.  He planned, made blueprints, and

 supervised building, even during his presidency.
He wanted Monticello to be an “essay in architecture”.
It was the first house in America to have an exterior
dome.  He added a special feature he had admired
 in France: indoor privies!    

Floor to ceiling triple hung windows
were another French influence.
Jefferson also had them double
paned, flooding the room with
sunlight while keeping out the
Virginia winter chill.
Jefferson opposed slavery philosophically, yet
was supported politically by many slave holding states.
He struggled with the issue of emancipation.
“The revolution in public opinion which this cause
requires is not to be expected in a day, or perhaps
in an age”.  Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves,
both as farm workers and household servants.  At the time of
his death, some slave families had lived and labored
at Monticello for four generations.  Historians agree
that he fathered six children with slave Sally
Hemmings.  (Verified by 1998 DNA evidence)

Two died, two “ran away” and two were
granted their freedom upon Jefferson’s death.

Jefferson’s gardens were a carefully tended abundance
of fruits and vegetables (peas were his favorite).
The garden was both a botanic showpiece and a
 laboratory for useful plants and medicinal herbs.
Friends sent him seed packets from around the world.
He took meticulous notes on everything from the height of
asparagus to number of seeds from sunflowers.
Below the gardens is a vineyard – Monticello
bottled both its own wine and ale.  James Hemmings,

Sally’s brother, was sent to France to train as 
a chef.  According to Daniel Webster 1n 1824, “dinners
were served in half Virginian, half French style
in good taste and abundance.”
Because carrying ink pots was
impractical, Jefferson would take
notes while walking on this ivory
pad in pencil, then wipe it off and
reuse it.
The grand entry way with its soaring two stories
was a place visitors might have to sit for hours
after a long journey, waiting to speak to Jefferson.
He made it intriguing, with maps and artifacts,
clocks and an indoor mechanism to read the wind
based on the weather vane on the roof. (Indoor

photos courtesy of, a 
wonderful detailed resource)

Jefferson thought the polygraph, which would
simultaneously copy writing, was the “finest
invention of our age”.  (He didn’t invent it, but
suggested several refinements).  It is one reason
we know so much of Jefferson, because we have so
many of his manuscripts and letters.
Seating room, with Jefferson-designed
wine dumbwaiters, tucked into the side
of the fireplace, to bring up bottles
from the cellar below.  JFK once said,
when addressing a roomful of Nobel
Prize winners in 1962, “I think this is
the most extraordinary collection of
talent, of human knowledge, that has
ever been gathered together at the White
House, with the possible exception of
when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”


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