Monticello Thomas Jefferson's House

"Thomas Jefferson's lifelong love affair with designing, constructing, and constantly reshaping the house and gardens at Monticello began when he inherited the mountaintop property in 1757" 1( Virginia Historical Society).

"Monticello, meaning "little mountain" in Italian, was Jefferson's home farm, the center of his 5,000-acre plantation tract" 2(Johnson 2014). This is where he not only spent time with his family, but he also saw this home as an escape from the public life when it was needed. While constructing his house, Thomas Jefferson used the ideas and plans from Europe, especially France. Monticello is where Thomas Jefferson not only lived, but this is where he shared his brilliance of gardening, landscaping, management, and architectural design with his family, friends, and future visitors.

"For him, Monticello represented a retreat from public life. When he was there, he could indulge himself in the pleasures of scholarship and family" 3(Hayes 2008, 14).

Thomas Jefferson saw Monticello as a comforting and welcoming place. He had long days where he would come home to have a break from his normal crazy life. His loved ones lived there and whenever he could, he always spent time with them. Also, Thomas Jefferson spent his home educating himself with books from his library. He loved to read and would do it anytime he could. Thomas Jefferson wished that he would die in his house. " I am as happy nowhere else, and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello" 4(Washington 1785, 243). Thomas Jefferson's wish came true, on July 4, 1826 he died in his bed at home.

"Considering the spectacular views Monticello offered and the psychological benefits derived from them, Jefferson decided that building atop the mountain was worth whatever difficulties locating a good source of water" 5(Hayes 2008, 13). Through-out time, Monticello was reconstructed and redesigned. At first, Encyclopedia Virginia says, "Monticello was a two-story, three-room house with doubled porticoes, or porches, with classically inspired columns supporting a pediment (the triangular section above a column-supported, horizontal structure)" 6(Johnson 2014).

In 1790, Jefferson began making plans to renovate his home, but it he did not start renovation till 1796. Jefferson added rooms on the east side of the house, which was separated by long hallways and steep stair cases. "Jefferson also added two guest chambers, a workroom for his daughter, and his private library, with a grand entrance hall at the center of the composition. The renovation almost tripled the number of rooms, which increased from eight to twenty-one" 7(Johnson, Monticello). The dining room, Thomas Jefferson's bedroom, and the Parlor kept their original looks.


In the corner, there are the days of the week written on signs. The levy would move up or down each day, so the Jefferson's were about to tell what day is was. ( found on Google)

"If you had visited Monticello in Jefferson's time, you would have been greeted in this grand two-story room by Burwell Colbert, Jefferson's enslaved butler, or by one of the enslaved houseboys. The Great Clock above the doorway displays the time as well as the day of the week" 8(Monticello). Also, in the hall where you walk in at from the front door, there are American Indian materials that were given to Thomas Jefferson hanging on the wall. On the top of the ceiling, there is a chandelier hanging and above that there is an eagle and stars imprinted into the ceiling.

Thomas Jefferson's Parlor (found on Google)

Jefferson's family and guests gathered in the Parlor to converse, play games, and enjoyed musical entertainment. The furniture in the Parlor was from France and items that were made in the joinery at Monticello. "The walls featured portraits of notable philosophers, statesmen, navigators and explorers of the New World. Also, there were some Biblical paintings on the walls" 9(Monticello).

Jefferson's Library (found on Google)

Thomas Jefferson loved to read and seemed to be very well educated. In his library, he had books that ranged from Biblical works to books that were on a specific type of animal. Jefferson had a total of 6,500 books in his library. After the burning of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jefferson sold his library to the nation. After the sale, he realized that he couldn't bare to live without his books, so he bought even more. "After his death, much of his library was sold to pay his debts, along with the house, most of its contents and the enslaved workers. Today, only a few original volumes remain from the retirements library at Monticello" 10(Monticello).

Jefferson's bedroom was very small and he did not have any extra furniture in it that was not necessary, so he could save space. His bed was in an alcove, which was between a cabinet and the bedroom. For sunlight, he had a sky-light in the top of his ceiling. Jefferson had a total amount of 13 skylight's in his house, because he thought that was the best way to access light. Someone said, "Whatever plans Jefferson may have had for the Dome, or “Sky Room” at Monticello, it is clear that it played no major role in the day-to-day life of the family" 11(Llewellyn&Granquist 1983, 108).

Underneath the first floor of his house, he had basically a basement, which was called the South Cellar Passage and the North Cellar Passage. This is where Jefferson had his storage cellars, beer cellars, and wine room. Beside the house, there was the South Privy and the North Privy.

Ice House (found on Google)

On the North Privy side, there was an Ice House that Jefferson used for food preservation. "It was used to store fresh meat and butter as well as for making ice cream and chilling wine" 12(Monticello). Also, Thomas Jefferson used this for meat storing, so that the meat wouldn't go bad. The North Privy, also had stables for horses, carriage houses, and the North Pavilion Cellar.

Kitchen (found on Google)

On the South Privy side, there is the kitchen, cook's room, smokehouse, slave quarter, dairy space, and the South Pavilion Cellar. The kitchen was one of the best equipped working places in the United States at this time. Jefferson shipped the pots, pans, and other preparation kitchen supplies to Monticello from France. "Common in Europe but relatively rare in the United States, this precursor of the kitchen range had charcoal fires with grated cast-iron openings and could be regulated more precisely than a roaring fireplace" 13(Monticello).

Monticello Flower Gardens and Vegetable Gardens

"The environment surrounding his home was as important to Jefferson as was the house itself, and although he planned the gardens from the time of the leveling of the Monticello site in the early 1770s, it was not until 1793 that the first planned gardens were planted, and more than a dozen more years passed before the gardens as they are known today came into being" 14(Virginia Historical Society).

Recently when I visited Monticello, I realized how beautiful and attractive the gardens are. There were several separate gardens, trees, as well as a pond. The main type of flower that is all around the ground of Monticello are tulips. Also, on the other side of the garden there are vegetable gardens, where they still grow vegetables today. "In his day Jefferson not only planned but also worked in the gardens at Monticello, aided by his family members, slaves, and European workers" 15(Betts 1953, 40). While Thomas Jefferson was still living, he imported different types of tulips, numerous trees, bushes, and other plants. Jefferson's love of both his flower and vegetable gardens were shared with his family and friends through letters. "Jefferson family letters are filled with a "garden gossip" that belies a child-like enthusiasm for the strawberries, tulips, and sugar maples at home" 16(Betts 1953, 40).

Thomas Jefferson saw how beautiful the view was from Monticello of the orchard's out in the distance. Today those orchard's are called Cater's Mountain. Delle, Mrozowaki, and Paynter wrote, "Jefferson was quite taken by the concept of the ferme ornee (ornamental farm), and he had hoped to construct several farms on the flank of Montalto to improve the prospect from Monticello" 17(Delle, Mrozowski&Paynter 2000, 68). Jefferson wanted the best of the best for his farm and gardens. He saw marvelous view out in the distance and wanted it to be his. Unfortunately, this did not end up happening.

Thomas Jefferson kept a record of his gardening, farming, and management in a book, called the Farm Book. "Jefferson's records reveal an experimental farm, implementing such innovations as horizontal plowing, a crop-rotation plan, and Jefferson's own revolutionary moldboard plow" 18(Betts 1953, 1384). Also, the Farm Book contained information on slave life. "The Farm Book is a window to slave life, containing Jefferson's notes regarding the rations his overseer distributed, the daily tasks required by particular slaves, and the number of yards he purchased for slaves' clothing" 19(Betts 1953, 1384).

"Jefferson left behind meticulous notes, along with a garden book he maintained for many years, providing restoration researchers with an embarrassment of riches" 20(Virginia Historical Society).

slave life

"Slaves were both humans and property, and as the protector of a large household and the manager of a working plantation, Jefferson always had to play two roles" 21(Stanton 2012, 150). He had to constantly remind himself of the difference between interest and duty. When it was time for him to be a strong leader and boss, then he had to switch gears to be that way. On the other hand, when it was time for him to be a loving father, he had to be able to do that as well.

"Jefferson realized the potency of family bonds for the African American members of his extended household" 22(Stanton 2012, 149).

He knew the importance of having slave families together and how it could be very beneficial. Most white families who owned slaved did not agree with this and saw it as a waste of time and money. Thomas Jefferson expected work to be done is an excellent way, but he understood that a child of a very young age should not be working. "But once black boys or girls reached the age of ten or twelve and their working lives began, they lost their status as children and, with it, the guarantee of family stability" 23(Stanton 2012, 150).

Thomas Jefferson truly cared about his household workers and slaves. "His Albemarle County "family" numbered 117, including, besides his wife and daughter, 16 free men (his overseers and hired workmen), their wives and children, and 83 slaves" 24(Stanton 2012, 177). Through-out Thomas Jefferson's life, he used the word "family" for both his family connected by blood and the people who work on the plantations, including slaves.

Even though Jefferson seemed to truly care about his salve workers, some argue that their living space wasn't very comforting. One critic says, "The slave cabins were built of stonewalls and brick floors, ten feet by ten feet, providing marginal protection from the elements" 25(Osborne 2003, 590). Osborne seemed to believe that the housing for slaves was unfair. I can see how they would think that way, however, after reading how other slaves were treated, I really don't see how Jefferson's home for the slaves were that awful. Some slaves in these days didn't have living spaces, or they had to build their own out of whatever supplies they could find.

After Thomas Jefferson and the other Monticello owners passed away, the house and the gardens went into ruins. The house was left with no one to take care of and so were the gardens. These were both prized possessions of Jefferson's. After many years of discussion, The Garden Club of Virginia decided to restore the magnificent gardens at Monticello. "After some initial discussions and activities in 1927, Stuart Gibboney, president of the Foundation, approached The Garden Club of Virginia in the spring of 1938 to request the organization's formal commitment to restoring the gardens at Monticello. The Club voted to designate funds earned from 1939 Garden Week revenue to the project" 26(Virginia historical Society).

The Monticello house needed some work done as well. "First step in the restoration was tuck-pointing the brickwork to repair damage that had overtaken it through 180 years. "The bricks themselves were in wonderful condition, thanks to Jefferson's "pine oil", says Grigg. "In fact the bricks are superior to anything we can obtain today" 27(Reef 1991, 4). They tried to keep the house as close as the original was, but that was difficult in a way because Thomas Jefferson sold several belongings when he was in debt. Some of the floor was redone, as well as straightening up the house. When I went to tour Monticello, I realized that in order to tour the upstairs, you have to pay extra money. I believe that is because the upstairs is more of the original furniture and is it more valuable.

Thomas jefferson's death and grave site

Gated area around grave site (Taken at actual grave site)

Even though Thomas Jefferson died in debt, he made Monticello a very successful place. Monticello is still a beautiful and well-kept place today. Visitor's still go daily to look at his brilliance that was shown through his house. While I was walking through Monticello I was able to see his brilliance of architectural design, where he spent most of his time, and his European design ideas. His grave site is still paid respect to today and wreaths are put beside his tombstone to show how honorable he was. His family and friends are all buried within the same gate as he is. I see that as a very respectful manner, because it shows the visitors how loving and fortunate he was. " The epitaph he wrote for his tombstone included only "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statue of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia" 28(Monticello).

Thomas Jefferson's Tombstone (found on Google)

Thomas Jefferson is still thought as a brilliant human being and someone who was very intelligent. He cared about his family, friends, and house workers. Jefferson showed others respect, acted like a boss, and was a loving family man whenever it was needed. He studied several subjects, topics, and ideas. The way we are able to see all of these characteristics of him, is by looking at the architectural details, gardening, slave houses, and landscaping at Monticello.


  1. Virginia Historical Society, Monticello.
  2. Johnson, Monticello.
  3. Hayes, The Road to Monticello, 14.
  4. Washington, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 243.
  5. Hayes, The Road to Monticello, 13.
  6. Johnson, Monticello.
  7. Johnson, Monticello.
  8. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.
  9. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.
  10. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.
  11. Llewellyn&Granquist, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, 108.
  12. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.
  13. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.
  14. Virginia Historical Society, Monticello.
  15. Betts, Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book, 40.
  16. Betts, Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book, 40.
  17. Delle, Mrozowski&Paynter, Lines That Divide, 68.
  18. Betts, Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, 1384.
  19. Betts, Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, 1384
  20. Virginia Historical Society, Monticello.
  21. Stanton, Those Who Labor for My Happiness, 150.
  22. Stanton, Those Who Labor for My Happiness, 149.
  23. Stanton, Those Who Labor for My Happiness, 150.
  24. Stanton, Those Who Labor for My Happiness, 177.
  25. Osborne, Monticello, 540.
  26. Virginia Historical Society, Monticello.
  27. Reef, Monticello, 4.
  28. Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello Pamphlet.


Betts, Edwin Morris, ed. Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book: With Commentary and Relevant Extracts From Other Writings. Charlottesville,VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (1954): 1384.

Betts, Edwin Morris, ed. Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book With Relevant Extracts From His Other Writings. Charlottesville,VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation (1953): 40.

Delle, James, Mrozowski, Stephen&Robert Paynter. "Lines That Divide Historical Archaeologies Race, Class, and Gender." Callaloo (2000): 68.

Hayes, Kevin. The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Oxford Press, Inc, (2008) 13-14.

Johnson, E. “Monticello.” Encyclopedia Virginia (2014). Accessed April 4, 2017.

"Monticello", Virginia Historical Society. Accessed: April 23, 2017.

Osborne, Vesper. “Monticello.” Callaloo (2003): 540. Accessed April 4, 2007.

Reef, Catherine. Monticello (Places in America). New York: Dillon Pr, (1991): 4.

Robert Llewellyn and Charles Granquist. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Virginia: Lickle Publisher Inc., (1983): 108.

Stanton, Lucia. “Those Who Labor for My Happiness”: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Virginia: University of Virginia Press (2012): 149-177.

Thomas Jefferson Monticello: Guide for Visitors Pamphlet, Published by: Monticello

Washington, H. A. (ed.). The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 9 vols. Washington, D.C.: Taylor & Maury, 1853-54.

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