TJ’s House


This past Wednesday my America & the Enlightenment class headed up to Monticello (in Charlottesville, VA) for the day to explore Thomas Jefferson’s house, and it was definitely classified as a good day. Somehow I got the position as navigator for the rides up and back, which was about an hour and fifteen minutes each way. It was pretty hilarious, Bruce trying to keep up with Adam (Mississippi farm boy with a surprising lead foot) while trying to please the rest of the 12 passenger van with various musical selections. But, we all survived, arriving only a little bruised from an hour of cowpunch.

It was a really gorgeous day to be up there – just a tiny bit chilly, but definitely perfect for photos and enjoying the lovely Virginia weather. I realized once I got home that I had literally no photographs of the house, as I was completely enamored with the gardens and grounds of Monticello. I also realized that I was a little frazzled concerning the name: back home in New York, Monticello is pronounced “mont-i-sello”, whereas here in Virginia it is pronounced “mont-i-chello.” Much of the day whenever I needed to name our location there was about a 15 second hesitation as I worked it out in my mind.

We toured the majority of the house and explored the cellars and grounds (and the giftshop) and had a blast. The tourguide put an A&E spin on it – mentioning those Enlightenment figures with whom Jefferson parlayed and corresponded with. I hadn’t realized that Jefferson was quite the inventor either! There were some pretty ingenious things in his home, such as the weathervane that was connected to a compass-looking device in the eaves of his front porch that would tell him temperature and wind direction at a glance; the dumbwaiter that ran to the wine cellar, something he had admired in Paris and implemented in his own home; the clock powered by a number of small cannon balls hanging from a chain, causing gravity to work the clock as well as tell the day of the week (he had plaques running up the wall, and where the cannons stopped told him what day it was. Unfortunately, he didn’t have enough wall space for Saturday, so he drilled a hole in his floor and proceeded to place Saturday in the cellar…we went on a hunt, searching for Saturday).

{we found Saturday, it was hiding behind a pipe the whole time!}

It turns out that TJ had quite the art collection and an excellent [if ridiculously eclecitic] eye. There were paintings throughout the house, tiny sillouhettes (my personal favorite), busts of some of his well known friends, and the architecture was also very beautiful. I was surprised to find that TJ had designed the entire house himself, as he had studied architecture in his youth (he was also fluent in about a bajillion and twenty languages… by a bajillion and twenty, I mean seven).

While exploring the cellar, I found these darling little windows at ground level. I was barely tall enough to peek out, but completely loved the perspective – you could see parts of TJ’s gardens and grounds! Loved it.

{tulips through the cellar window}

My favorite part of the day (aside from cowpunch) was exploring the grounds and taking photos with friends. There were gardens everywhere, which made me so ridiculously happy, especially because there were tulips and daffodils, and tons of forget-me-nots running rampant throughout. The views were absolutely gorgeous  – I’d be happy living in a tent if I had that plot of land (though I wouldn’t complain too much if I had to live in the house)!

{a little retaining wall filled with tulips atop the hill}

{I got a little mesmerized by this path}

{the tree we stumbled across that couldn’t have been anything but a wishing tree}

{tj’s garden overlooking Charlottesville}

{one of the many lovely tree-lined paths at Monticell0}

{a headstone we stumbled upon in the cemetary. i thought this was a very eloquent way of saying, “chivalry is dead.”}

{i want to build a little house right beside this tree. daffodils must stay.}

{these lovely little flowers grew everywhere, a friend picked this one for me.}

{we may or may not have put a lovely little flower into tj’s hand.}

{…and his lapel.}

After finishing up at Monticello and saying our farewells to TJ, we headed down to Charlottesville to grab lunch before heading out. The first van, whom we followed on the way up, shot out of the parking lot so quick we couldn’t keep up. So I ended up having to navigate (still not sure it was a brilliant idea, although I’ve been told I did ok), and thankfully, we didn’t get lost. Everyone was dead asleep in the back of the van, which was probably a good thing as we were battling some seriously high winds on the way home along the parkway. Not fun at all.

We got back to BV safely (totally exhausted) and realized that we’d been playing “soccer parents” all day long. Keeping track of who was in our van, making sure we got the directions right, subjecting them to the musical selections of our choice… it was a pretty hilarious situation. So, of course, as they were hopping out (we needed to fill up), we couldn’t help but give the parting words, “be good! practice hard! play nice with the other kids! unless the other kid hits you first, then go for it!”

…we were really tired.

But Monticello is definitely one of those places I’d love to go again, perhaps when it is not so chilly.

Maybe I’d get photos of the actual house next time. :)

{i wouldn’t mind living up there either.}

PS- the whole time I was at Monticello, I had this version of the song “Too Late to Apologize” stuck in my head. It was pretty much epic.


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