In September 2016, we took a trip to Washington DC for my husband’s birthday. We had been looking for something exciting to do, and with all the political focus this season, we thought it would be fun to visit DC with all it’s landmarks and museums. It had been a long while since we had visited there with our kids, and I needed an excuse to get closer to a spot on my bucket list — Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia.
I can’t really remember when I began my obsession with Thomas Jefferson, as it’s been a few decades now, but after reading so many of his writings, I thought the ultimate view inside his head might be a peek at Monticello. I purchased tickets a few weeks ahead online, a “Behind the Scenes” tour would be needed, and waited most impatiently for my chance to soak up all I could about his life lived in this glorious home.
Clearly it’s best for me to admit up front that I am a total TJ geek! Look how cute he is, even in bronze.
The only bummer about the tour is you cannot take pictures inside the house. This has something to do with the items that are original but are on loan to the foundation.
Apparently after TJ died, all the items inside the house, along with the property were sold off to pay his debts. The exceptionally cool part is one of his granddaughters that lived there with him, was a great artist, and knew how much everything meant to him. She literally went from room to room, in the ENTIRE house, and drew pictures of each scene and everything that was placed there. When the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the property back in the 1920’s, they not only had a complete catalog list of everything that was in the house when he died, but pictures of it’s exact placement! Can you even imagine? Now 60% of the items shown in the house are the originals, retrieved from where they were sold, along with antiques added that would be exact to items he owned. It’s pretty mind-blowing when you are in there! The foundation continues to make improvements and updates throughout time, using his own journals and drawings as guides to return it to how it was or what his vision was for it.
So since I couldn’t take pictures, I took some notes during the tour. We arrived at 9am and did not leave until after 4pm. I still am a bit surprised that my husband was such a good sport about my obsession and need to see everything! We went on every tour, inside and out, and wandered the grounds, learning and observing as much as we could. I was especially taken with the gardens.
This view is from the vegetable garden pavillion. From this vantage point, you have a breath-taking view of three different directions of the expanse of Monticello.
The view from the veranda, looking south (I think).
Jefferson was obsessed with 3 things: light, time, and space. Those three things are prevalent in details in Monticello from the many clocks in the house, to the windows and skylights, and the use of space in the rooms and how the house was laid out. If you want to be a total TJ nerd, check out some of the videos available on you tube about Monticello and it’s items.
There are only a few trees on the property that were there in Thomas Jefferson’s time. However, everything planted on the property are always species he had while he lived there, as he kept extensive notebooks about the property and gardens. I could go on and on about Monticello, but if you are interested, you can read some FAQs here.
The gardens took extensive planning by Jefferson, and were a laboratory of sorts. He tried growing many things, even items that were not known to grow in the area, but the climate on the hill at Monticello ended up being ideal for many crops.
There are all kinds of unusual perennials that decorate the garden. Everything is marked by a wooden ID marker, that are identified with a “TJ” at the top of the marker if they were found in his garden journals and grew during his time at Monticello. I took a bajillion pictures of all types of cultivars, that hopefully I can use to make my own garden interesting soon.
Every where you look and wander, there are pretty views, places to rest, and something to explore.
The garden grown at Monticello is actively used for food and items sold around the property.
If you are into gardens, it’s a place to go crazy with inspiration, and you might understand why I am such a freak about this! I only wish I lived closer so I could go back and visit with each changing season. They also have really cool events that take place here each year.
I really couldn’t get enough of this, so we watched every movie in the museum area and purchased books that I have been devouring the last few months!
I just want to get a little TJ look in my garden too someday.
The property features a graveyard where he is buried. It is always interesting to listen to the history and stories behind these great homes and the lives that were lived there.
I could have wandered for days, and hope to go back again sometime, but for now I will continue to be a TJ geek and soak up as much inspiration I can from this beautiful spot of earth.
If you are interested in some cool TJ reading, these are two books I picked up at the gift shop. Both have been a wonderful wealth of information and a great peek into the life of Thomas Jefferson.
Hmmm, after revealing what a weirdo I am, I should just sign this — Obsessed, Jill