Friday, March 15, 2013

"7 Quick Takes Friday" #9: the Monticello Edition

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While sons #3 and #4 were at work on Wednesday, my husband, youngest son, and I took a tour of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's spectacular (and spectacularly preserved) mansion that sits atop a hill overlooking beautiful Charlottesville, VA.  It was awesome (and I know I'm using that seriously overused term yet again in this blog; but truly, the shoe fits here).

We spent a wonderful, wonderful afternoon, taking a tour of the beloved home that Jefferson designed himself and learning just how much of a genius this Founding Father, author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of the University of VA, and third President of the United States really was.

Jefferson was a man who had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about an endless number of subjects, and he kept copious notes on everything that interested him.  He was an inventor, an architect, a farmer, a surveyor, a scientist, an avid reader and letter-writer, and a man who was fluent in seven languages (and was in the process of teaching himself an eighth language when he died at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826--on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and within hours of our second President, John Adams).  My husband and I couldn't figure out how Jefferson did all that he did--and the above list of his interests and accomplishments doesn't even tell the whole story--yet had time to serve two terms as President as well.

If you ever get a chance to visit Monticello, I highly recommend it.  It is an utterly and completely fascinating place.  You might come away from there wondering if Thomas Jefferson was some kind of obsessive-compulsive overachiever who must have been able to function on little-to-no sleep, or if it's just that you yourself are a bit on the lazy side in comparison.  As my niece joked at dinner Wednesday night, "It makes me wonder how much I could accomplish if I didn't watch so much TV!"  (We had just been talking about our shared obsession with the PBS series "Downton Abbey.")

Anyhoo--one of the great unintended consequences of my visit to Monticello is that I think it gave me at least 7 "takes" for my post today.  Woo hoo!
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Jefferson, like Washington, was a tall man for his time.  He stood at 6 feet-2 and 1/2 inches, and he slept in a bed that was exactly 6'3" long.  My sons who are about the same height say that that was simply not enough leg room--that the bed should have been 7' long at least, or it would have been completely uncomfortable.  But our tour guide told us that in the 18th century, it was common to sleep in a semi-propped-up position, so TJ probably thought his bed was plenty long enough.

By the way, Jefferson was just about the same height as my baby.  Here's the proof.
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After visiting Monticello, I've decided that my late-80's small-ish and somewhat dated kitchen is more than adequate, thank you very much.  Somehow, Jefferson's kitchen staff was able to produce two fabulous meals a day for the upstairs folks (meals heavily influenced by the gourmet French cuisine Jefferson had learned about in his travels abroad) using this basement space.  C'mon, reallly?  Yikes.  Let me rephrase that.  YIKES.
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Ditto as far as my dated late-80's bathrooms.  Compared to Monticello's facilities, the ones in my house are fit for king!  (Or a president!)  I'm sure that back in Jefferson's day, it was a great luxury just to have an indoor privy, instead of an outside latrine that meant you were forced to brave the cold night air in order to take care of nature's business.  But again...YIKES.  I often say that I think I was born too late and would have enjoyed living in old-fashioned times.  You have my permission to slap me if I ever utter those crazy words again.
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The original house Thomas Jefferson shared with his wife (and their first child) was a good bit humbler than Monticello.  Before he and Martha went movin' on up (to the East Side; get it? "The Jeffersons"?), they lived in an extremely humble abode.  While Monticello was being built, they inhabited this tiny, one-room brick house that still exists behind the mansion proper.
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Speaking of "Downton Abbey" (we did speak of it, back in #1 above--remember?), I was reminded of the show while we toured the basement rooms of Monticello.  In the area where the dumb waiters (used for sending bottles of wine upstairs) were located, along with the intricate bell system for beckoning the servants to different parts of the house, we saw this.  Downton fans, does this familiar image ring a bell? 
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Of course, we couldn't leave Monticello without first stopping by the museum gift shop to spend way more money than should have.  We chose some fun shot glasses for our sons, a leather-bound book filled with Jefferson's famous quotes for my husband, and a small blue-and-white transferware plate for me--made not in China, but in Staffordshire, England.  Like the Colonials, I have a soft spot for pottery from the Mother Land.
If you've been to Monticello, this post was probably a bit of a yawn-fest for you.  But if you haven't, I thought it might get you inspired to make the trip someday.  It is so worth it, believe me.

Okay, I'm already late getting this post up.  In less than half an hour, it won't even be Friday anymore!  But my husband and I were on the road all day today, making the 12-hour drive back from VA after a great visit with some of our gang.  Then we got home and my computer crashed, and my husband had to figure out how to reboot it and get it up and running again for me.  Better late than never, though.  And don't forget to go over to Conversion Diary for more "7 Quick Takes Friday" fun.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


  1. This makes me want to see Monticello! We ma have to make a trip there some day and find a nice campground nearby. I love this post.

  2. Monticello really is something else. And Jeff is a history buff, isn't he? Actually, Jefferson was a kindred spirit (into architecture and building, farming, surveying, etc.--lots of the same stuff Jeff has done).

    That area of Northern VA is really beautiful, too. And there are all these vineyards you can visit if you're into that.

  3. LOVE Monticello! We took the boys there last November (the day after Thanksgiving) with my parents. I hadn't been there in many years, and my boys had never seen it. I got a kick out of the fact that Jefferson's favorite color was PINK.

    1. You know, our tour guide didn't point that out. But now that you mention it, there WAS a lot of pink! (Including his bedspread!)