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 we thought it would be fun to visit DC with all its 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 Virginia. I had to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, a bucket list trip for me.
Why Visit Monticello?
Remembering when I began my obsession with Thomas Jefferson is tough, but it’s been a few decades now. After reading so many of his writings, I thought the ultimate view inside his head might be a peek at Monticello. What better way to know someone than to visit the home they designed and loved?
I purchased tickets a few weeks ahead online, and bought the “Behind the Scenes” tour! I 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.
Visiting Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
The only bummer about the tour is you cannot take pictures inside the house of the living areas. This has something to do with the items that are original but are on loan to the foundation. There are only a few spots where photos were allowed inside.
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. She documented everything that was placed there!
When the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the property back in the 1920’s, they had a complete catalog list of everything that was in the house when he died! Not only that, but her drawings showed the 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, everything was replicated. It’s pretty mind-blowing when you are in there! The foundation continues to make improvements and updates throughout time. They use his own journals and drawings as guides to return it to how it was or what his vision was for it.
Many Tours at Monticello
Since I couldn’t take pictures, I took 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. The gardens were especially enchanting.
This view is of the vegetable garden. The plants they grow are the same that he grew during his time there.
Getting to Know Thomas Jefferson
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, his vision is prevalent. If you want to be a total TJ nerd, check out some of the videos available on you Tube about Monticello and its 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. 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 at Monticello
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,, they are marked this way. 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 supplies food and items sold at the gift shop and on 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.
An Interesting History at Monticello
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! My own family history includes mixed race ancestry. It was interesting to see how they explained the history of all that was TJ and Monticello.
Thomas Jefferson’s Resting Place
The grave of Thomas Jefferson is on site the property. There are also plots for others who have lived there.
I could have wandered for days, and hope to go back again. But for now I will continue to soak up as much inspiration as I can from this beautiful spot of earth.
Design and Garden Inspiration from Monticello
If you are interested in some cool TJ reading, these are two books I picked up at the gift shop. After all I saw, there was still a wonderful wealth of information to learn. Getting a peek into the life of Thomas Jefferson was really gratifying.
The home is beautiful and well taken care of. If you have a chance to be near it in Virginia, you should definitely stop by for a tour. As I have noted, I really loved it, and was happy to check it off my bucket list.
If you’d like to read about how I have been influenced in my own design style, read this.
Thanks for stopping by,