Inger and Jeff Latreille
~Monday, May 31, 2021~
Day 351 (HAPPY MEMORIAL🇺🇸 DAY EVERYONE!!)
Thank you to all the men and women who have served our country to protect the freedoms we hold so dear, and especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Forever grateful!
It is actually quite fitting that we celebrated our Memorial Day visiting the home of THE principal architect of one of our country’s most important founding documents, The Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, also known as “Little Mountain”,
was a neo-classically designed home and working plantation to our third President of the United States for 56 years from 1770 to 1826. In fact, Jefferson was quite an architect (self-taught) and designed many of the features of the home. To this day, it remains THE most preserved home of any President thanks to Uriah Levy, a wealthy naval captain who absolutely revered Jefferson. He purchased the home and acreage three years after Jefferson’s death, continuing preservation and restoration until his death in 1858. After a long dispute over Levy’s will, Uriah’s nephew acquired the property 11 years later, restoring the home and opening it to the public. He also expanded the property from 500 acres to 2,000 more over the course of his ownership. Since 1923, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has owned and restored the house meticulously for all of us to enjoy…..price tag….$500,000.
After finding a locker for my backpack (they have very strict security which I totally get), we took the shuttle up to “Little Mountain” instead of walking so that we could spend more time touring. The property is absolutely stunning with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains all around. I can only imagine what it would look like during the Fall season (we’ll have to go back). We were led to a shady spot to have our introduction to the property and what was in store for us on our self-guided tour. The first part of the tour was the Entrance Hall which was like a museum, showcasing objects from cultures that fascinated him; thus reflecting Jefferson’s beliefs that ”knowledge is power, knowledge is safety, knowledge is happiness”. We were able to tour the entire first floor and basement, but nothing fascinated me more than his office/library. An avid reader, we were in awe of his book collection. The ones behind glass were actual books that Jefferson read,
with the others being copies of what he had read. Apparently he was a speed reader. The remaining original books that Jefferson owned are held at the Library of Congress, which we have yet to visit. The other fascinating part to his office was the drafting table (original of course) where he spent many hours drawing plans for the University of Virginia, as well as ever changing ideas for Monticello. He was always looking at new ways of enhancing the home/property. I was completely in awe to be standing in the original home of one of our greatest forefathers. He was a complex man, with exceptional intelligence, persistent curiosity, high standards, yet deep contradictions. The latter was never more apparent than the fact he had purchased over 600 slaves over the course of owning Monticello, mistressing one with whom he fathered 6 children (4 survived), all after his first wife, Martha passed away at a very young age due to complications from childbirth. Martha and Jefferson had 6 children, 2 of whom would live to adulthood. As difficult as slavery is to comprehend, back then it was all about “property“....land property, slave property. Our tour of Mulberry Row, which was the industrial hub of Jefferson’s plantation, left us really grappling with whether or not Jefferson was a good guy or not. The hypcoracy of acquiring slaves, yet penning that “all men are created equal” was a little hard to digest.
Taking in all this history made for 2 hungry people. We didn’t have access to our lunch (in my backpack) unless we shuttled back to the car. So we opted for a light refreshment of ice tea and kettle corn at the Farm Table Cafe on the property. While we were sitting there enjoying the beautiful, partly sunny day, we noticed people on the balcony above where we were sitting, pointing and looking at something behind us. Of course we had to take a peek. A docent happened to be there to explain what all the fuss was about. Straight through a window of branches, 7 miles in the distance was a view of the University of Virginia. The docent mentioned that this tree is trimmed regularly so that day after day, the view remains. The University of Virginia was Jefferson’s masterpiece, as he was constantly in pursuit to reinvent higher education. He called this showpiece the Academical Village. It is considered to be the #1 most beautiful campus in America, has spent 31 years as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and 53 years as a National Historic Landmark. We’ll have to save that visit for another time.
As we were leaving Monticello, one of the docents told us about the group tours (14 people-$400) that allow you to see the entire house with a personal guide. That would be fantastic. Now to round up 14 people…...who’s in?? We will most certainly be back!
With play does come work. Laundry duty calls. Thankfully, the laundry facility is a 2 minute drive on the campground, and who does laundry at 9:00 at night? Nice to be the only crazy one, so that I could do 3 loads at once. You’ve got to time these things just right.