Sunday, January 23, 2011

Charlottesville is a Must see

A trip to Charlottesville, Virginia offers you the opportunity to visit the homes of three early American Presidents, namely; James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson. No one should ever visit this area without taking two or three days just to visit the homes and plantations.

This was my second trip to the area, and we had planned to stay at a local hotel near the University of Virginia so we would be able to see this unusual city and the beautiful surroundings.

The first day we took an intimate look at the extraordinary house Thomas Jefferson built and furnished for himself and his family. The guided house tour covers the rooms on Monticello’s first floor and lasts about 30 minutes. The entrance hall contains recreations of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition. The floor cloth here is painted a "true grass green" upon the recommendation of artist Gilbert Stuart in order for Jefferson's 'essay in architecture' to invite the spirit of the outdoors into the house. Your admission ticket also includes access to the grounds and two optional outdoor guided tours, of the Plantation Community and of the Gardens and Grounds, which are offered daily. The main house was augmented by small outlying pavilions to the north and south. A row of functional buildings (dairy, wash houses, store houses, a small nail factory, a joinery etc.) and slave dwellings known as Mulberry Row lay nearby to the south. A stone weaver's cottage survives, as do the tall chimney of the joinery, and the foundations of other buildings. A cabin on Mulberry Row was, for a time, the home of Sally Hemings; she later moved into a room in the "south dependency" below the main house. On the slope below Mulberry Row Jefferson maintained an extensive vegetable garden. The house was the center of a plantation of 5,000 acres tended by some 150 slaves.

It is a historical site and was the estate of Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia. Because of his importance in our early history, this place is a must see.

It is situated on the summit of an 850-foot peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap. Its name comes from the Italian "little mountain."

Work began on what historians would subsequently refer to as "the first Monticello" in 1768. Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion in 1770. Jefferson left Monticello in 1784 to serve as Minister of the United States to France. During his tenure in Europe, he had an opportunity to see some of the classical buildings with which he had become acquainted from his reading, as well as to discover the "modern" trends in French architecture that were then fashionable in Paris. His decision to remodel his own home may date from this period. In 1794, following his service as the first U.S. Secretary of State (1790–93), Jefferson began rebuilding his house based on the ideas he had acquired in Europe. The remodeling continued throughout most of his presidency (1801–09).

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, and Monticello was inherited by his eldest daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. Financial difficulties led to Martha selling Monticello to James T. Barclay, a local apothecary, in 1831. Barclay sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish American to serve an entire career as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Levy greatly admired Jefferson. During the American Civil War, the house was seized by the Confederate government and sold, though Uriah Levy's estate recovered it after the war.

Let me mention a few tid-bits you may have forgotten. An image of the west front of Monticello has been featured on the reverse of the nickel minted since 1938 (with a brief interruption in 2004 and 2005).

Monticello also appeared on the reverse of the two-dollar bill from 1928 to 1966, when the bill was discontinued. The current bill was introduced in 1976 and retains Jefferson's portrait on the obverse but replaced Monticello on the reverse with an engraved modified reproduction of John Trumbull's painting Declaration of Independence instead. The gift shop at Monticello hands out two-dollar bills as change.

Monticello, the only private home in the United States, along with the nearby University of Virginia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

This stop is always a highlight for me due to its historical significance.

Dominion and fear are with him, he maketh peace in his high places. Job 25:2 (KJV)

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