Saturday, July 10, 2010
A Seldom Seen Piece of Virginia History - Upstairs at Monticello
Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, sits on a beautiful hillside overlooking Charlottesville, Virginia. Millions of people pass through its gardens and the first-floor tour. However, while one can see a lot on the general tour, those roped off staircases draw the eye, taunting and tantalizing all at the same time. I've been through Monticello many, many times and I love its grounds. However, the main tour takes one only around the first floor and outbuildings. The upstairs living quarters have remained frustratingly out of reach for many years.
Once in college I got to take a brief turn around the famous dome room on the top floor (it's gorgeous!). And now I know I must make it to C-ville because...drum roll...there is a special summer tour going on and visitors can see the upstairs! I'm already glancing over my court calendar and trying to pick out a day that I can take off for a little field trip.
The main tour of Monticello is fascinating in and of itself because one can see not only how people lived on this plantation, but also one can get a glimpse into the mind of Thomas Jefferson himself. The home is filled with architectural flourishes that captured Jefferson's mind in Europe and that he brought home with him. In addition, the man was quite the inventor and the first floor of house is filled with various gadgets that he invented and perfected for himself. Jefferson entertained in this portion of the house and whenever I'm there, I can almost see him showing off his latest invention or book acquisition.
However, I get the sense that the upper floors are different. These were the private living quarters of various members of the Jefferson family at different times, including his sister and later his daughter Martha and her family. Though I've not gotten to tour these rooms (yet!), I've read about them and they seem to be less ornate and more functional. The areas of Monticello where Jefferson would have entertained were quite the showplace, but the upstairs looks more like home. From the pictures I've been able to find, one can see the fabulous bones of this house set off against the comparatively stark furnishings. It's exciting that this will be open to the public at last and if you're planning a trip to Virginia, you may want to think about taking a chance to get a glimpse at this part of Monticello that few have ever seen.
Hope everyone is having a good weekend!