Thursday, April 6, 2017


I recently had the pleasure of visiting Monticello, as part of a week-long Road Scholar ( ) program in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States.  This pond that shows the reflection of Monticello in this photo, was actually stocked with fish to be used for meals; it was a very useful source of variety for their diets, in the days before refrigeration.  It is said to be one of many innovative features that Thomas Jefferson designed into his plantation .  

Monticello is the iconic symbol on the U.S. nickel (five cent piece), and is the only private  home in the United States, that has the designation of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can read more about the many other awards this property has received, on their official website at   .

The plantation was originally about 5,000 acres, and as such, you can imagine that the grounds surrounding the house are vast.  This is one of the many trails around the property, and is located between the main house and the Monticello cemetery.

Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles, described by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.  After Jefferson's time in France, serving as Minister of the United States to France, he returned to Monticello, and continued to remodel and add on to the property.  Some experts says he was very much influenced by the historic buildings he saw while living in France.  In fact, when he first built the house, it did not have the prominent dome you can see in this photo. 

Tourists today enter through the east portico.  Before you go inside, the tour guide will point out the medallion on the ceiling, which is connected to a weather vane on the roof, indicating the wind direction.  Another novel feature is that the clock above the door connects through the wall to the "Great Clock" inside the entry foyer.  The clock on the outside only has an hour hand, and not a minute hand.

This photo shows a lose-up of the ceiling medallion (wind plate), which is connected to a weather vane on the roof, that indicates wind direction.

I was amused at the title of this exhibit called "Count the Miles", because that it something that we do in the health and nutrition field, to try to get folks to increase their physical activity.  The exhibit tells us that Jefferson was fastidious about measuring things---miles, temperature, wind direction, rainfall, etc.  He devised a way to measure the distances he traveled in his horse-drawn carriage, by counting the number of rotations of the wheels, and then multiplying it by the distance traveled with one wheel turn.  Using this system, he developed maps that would tell the distance between his home, and various other locations in the area.

There is a gift shop located "beneath the house", in something like a "walk-out basement", where one can buy agricultural products that have actually been grown at, or around Monticello.  As such, they make a great souvenir of your visit to this still-working plantation 

This photo shows the garden where that produce is grown and harvested.   At its prime, Jefferson grew 330 vegetable varieties in Monticello's 1000-foot-long garden terrace.   Since I was there in late March, it was too early to see many of the crops that would be harvested.

Just above the garden plot, is an area called Mulberry Row.  This was the site of some of Jefferson's slave quarters.  It was also the location of some service and industrial structures.  The slave cabins were occupied by the slaves who worked in the mansion or in Jefferson's manufacturing ventures, and not by those who labored in the fields. 

This statue of Thomas Jefferson, with his "spy glass" in his hand, is the location of the shuttle pick up that will take you up the hill to the Monticello home.
The shuttle is in continuous operation throughout the operating hours of Monticello home tours. 

For those who prefer to walk to the top of the hill, there is a scenic (but somewhat steep) trail through the woods.  If you are climbing UP the hill, you may think the home was mis-named, because Monticello means "little mountain".  After huffing and puffing up the hill, it may not seem so little after all!

However, if hiking is something you enjoy, there is an even longer hike you can take, which starts a couple of miles below the Visitor's Center, just off the main highway.  It is called the Saunders-Monticello Trail.  Since I had purchased a souvenir hiking medallion to hammer into my wooden hiking stick, I wanted to walk the trail, in order to truly "earn" the medallion!

The trail will lead you to the Visitor's Center, where there are restrooms, theaters, children's museum, cafe, and gift shop.  Before my visit, I had read that the gift shop gives its change in the form of two dollar bills, since the portrait of Thomas Jefferson graces each bill.  You can also ask the clerk to stamp the bill with the "Monticello" logo.  I got several for souvenirs!  (The two dollar bill has special significance for my son, since its uniqueness helped solve a robbery that occurred at his home!)

The Saunders-Monticello Trail has several sections of nice boardwalk over the valleys, so that the walker does not have as much ascending/descending to do, if the trail had followed the exact contours of the landscape. 

This plaque at the Monticello Graveyard demonstrates how Jefferson fulfilled a promise he made to a schoolmate, as a young man.

It is interesting to note that the memorial stone to Thomas Jefferson does not indicate that he was once President of the United States!  Rather, it mentions that he was the author of the Virginia Statutes on Religious Freedom. 
I am thankful for the work our founding fathers did to enable me to freely worship, and express my faith in God.  I am using these images to serve as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse.  The words of 1 Peter 1:3 say, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."   Just as our founding fathers were full of hope for this new nation, we can still be full of hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!  When I study the history of the United States of America, I gain a greater appreciation of the wonderful blessing I have of being able to freely express my Christian faith, and this gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia