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the home of Thomas Jefferson
Located just southeast of Charlottesville, Virginia, the land upon which Monticello is located was part of the vast holdings Thomas Jefferson inherited from his father in 1764. He began preparation for construction in 1767, and moved into the first completed structure, a one-room brick outbuilding, in November 1770. He began building the main house in 1770, but because he kept changing and updating his plans it was not completed until 1809. Jefferson borrowed many ideas from classical European buildings. The columned portico, for example, was based on Andrea Palladio's Villa Rotonda in Veicenza. The dome resembles the dome of the Hotel Salem in Paris. Almost everything used in the home's construction were produced on the estate, including the bricks, most of the wood, and even the nails. Monticello means"little mountain" in Italian, and the estate was no named because Jefferson located the main house on top of a hill he had explored as a child.
In addition to the main house, Monticello was and still is well known for its extensive gardens, which were a botanic showpiece, a source of food, and an experimental laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world. Jefferson also spent considerable time and effort on the cultivation of wine grapes at Monticello, but whether he ever produced more than a few bottles of wine at a time (or any at all) is unclear.
Jefferson spent his post-presidential years at Monticello, from which he supervised the construction of the University of Virginia. He died at Monticello on July 4, 1826, and was buried in a small family cemetery on the grounds.
Because Jefferson was deeply in debt at the time of his death, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph and her son Thomas Jefferson Randolph were forced to sell nearly everything in the house, animals, farm equipment, and slaves at an executor's sale, in 1827. James T. Barclay, a local apothecary, bought the house and 552 acres for $4,500, less the value of his own home, in 1831. Unsuccessful in his attempts to cultivate silk worms on the property, Barclay sold the by then neglected property to Uriah P. Levy, an admirer of Jefferson, in 1834. Levy renovated the house and kept it and the grounds in good condition until his death in 1862. Levy bequeathed Monticello to the federal government, but the Confederacy seized and sold the property before Levy's bequest could be finalized. Jefferson Monroe Levy, Uriah Levy's nephew, took possession of the property in 1879, after years of litigation. In 1923, Jefferson Levy sold it to the newly created Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which undertook a major restoration program. Monticello was opened to the public in 1954, and is still owned and operated by the Foundation today. Its official website is www.monticello.org.
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This page was last updated on August 30, 2018.