Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s home for decades. It was where he witnessed the birth of his first child, where he spent his formative years as president, and where he cultivated his many talents in addition to being a lifelong public servant. It was where he died, exactly 50 years after he drafted the Declaration of Independence. A visit to the Thomas Jefferson Monticello Estate is more than just admiring the house that Jefferson built, though it certainly warrants great interest by itself, but it’s also about learning about the life of a great American, whose prominence was overshadowed by his tendency to overspend.
Why Visit The Thomas Jefferson Monticello Estate
It’s probably one of the most fascinating homes in the United States, if not the world. Not for it’s lavish decorations or its grandiosity, but more so for its perfectly symmetrical design and the intricate details that can be found in every room inside the house. For example, gaze at the ceilings and observe the simple elegance of the crown moldings or admire Jefferson’s efficient use of space with multipurpose functionality such as a window that doubles as a private entrance door.
It’s Mountaintop Location
Just like George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello sits on a hill with amazing views of the surrounding farmland, valley, and mountainous region. On a clear day, you can see for miles and gaze at the hilltops of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. It’s definitely a place that’s secluded and provides plenty of privacy.
There are only a handful of locations in the United States that are selected by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites and Monticello is one of them. It’s the only presidential home with such designation, and it certainly deserves it.
The estate is mostly farmland but there are areas that resemble the dense forests of nearby Shenandoah. These hideaways have paved hiking trails that take you through different scenic areas of the estate. They are well marked and have a variety of elevations. All of the trails are only accessible with admission to the estate however.
Recently restored, Mulberry Row tells the story of slavery in Monticello, particularly the Hemmings family, who served the Jeffersons for several generations. Archaeological digs show proof of slaves’ daily lives and the types of skills they amassed during that period. A visit to the Thomas Jefferson Monticello Estate is not complete without exploring this part.
The Tunnel Exhibits
The tunnel exhibits provide more details about the house itself and the daily life inside the Thomas Jefferson Monticello estate. It provides a visual of the upstairs/downstairs relationship between the Jefferson family and the slaves working for them at the time. It also displays some of the 19th century gadgets and artifacts from Monticello as well as items recovered from Mulberry Row.
The Slavery and Garden Tours
In addition the fascinating tour of the Monticello house, a day pass also includes a slavery and garden tour. The former gives visitors a perspective of Monticello from the slaves’ point of view. The guides also do a great job tying the historical accounts associated with slavery during that period to that of the Jefferson family. The garden tour is an informative hour about the plants and the vegetation that Jefferson preferred during his years in Monticello. Visitors get to hear stories about the successes and failures of his experimental garden and get a chance to hear about the lighter side of the beloved third president.
It’s Accessible to the University of Virginia and Downtown Charlottesville
The Thomas Jefferson Monticello estate sits atop a little hill in the city of Charlottesville, VA not too far from the city town proper and the University of Virginia (UVA), another one of Thomas Jefferson’s handiwork. The city of Charlottesville is a charming college town, with a small, but historic pedestrian friendly downtown. Both UVA and downtown Charlottesville are within a ten-minute drive from the Thomas Jefferson Monticello estate.
Easy Drive from Washington, D.C.
Charlottesville, VA is a city just a little over 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. The drive takes approximately two and a half hours, which makes it a doable daytrip if you’re staying in Washington, D.C. The drive also takes you through some of the most scenic portions of rural Virginia.
American History Lesson
One of the biggest draws to Monticello is learning about the life of Thomas Jefferson and visitors will certainly get a full dose of it while visiting. In addition to being a true polymath, Jefferson was an integral part of American history. He was the primary drafter of the Declaration of Independence, the president who doubled the size of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase, and this country’s first Secretary of State.