The only private residence – on money. Nearly six years in the neighborhood, and never have had the chance to get down to Monticello. The famous residence of Thomas Jefferson, what is striking when you first get to Monticello (well, once you get past the rather large visitors center) is how well … modest it is. Now, let’s not be mistaken. The home is decidedly the center of a plantation and with 21 rooms, it is nobody’s vision of small. However, seeing the image of the house against the background, it actually seems fairly manageable, and actually pretty crowded whe Jefferson entertained.
We had 3.5 hours to kill waiting for the grand house tour (and no photographs allowed once inside), but the grounds give plenty of area to look. The most interesting was a rather verbose tour of the Plantation Grounds – basically an exploration of the slave focus. To the great credit of the museum staff, they have NOT wrapped Jefferson’s slave ownership in the typical Southern brush-off, but addressed it head-on. Now, a tour is not the place to really address how Jefferson could regard slaves (some who he knew as early as his own childhood) as property without totally denying their humanity. However, the tour guide did bring it up, and explained that there is a dichotomy, and it is not explained in the research. Indeed, when one sees how much education, freedom and responsibility Jefferson necessarily gave the slaves (because the place had to run independently) – one can see that Monticello was probably as good a deal as a slave could get. But it was still slavery, and that is just a fact. As we are led through Mulberry Row on the plantation, we see ruins (for lack of a better word) of foundations for the various areas, such as a blacksmith or joinery:
After that tour, what we are allowed to regard is the amazing garden Jefferson maintained (and the foundation is still maintaining). A remarkable variety of tomatoes, beans, peas and flowers are still immaculately kept – or not that immaculately (if someone took a pea pod off of a plant for instance ummm hypothetically).
As stated earlier, the house itself does not allow pictures inside. What can be said is that Thomas Jefferson considered himself a scientist – and the clocks he designed and maintained were amazing. In fact, looking at his books and his devices – one gets the sense of a real renaissance man. The tour is worth doing, even though it costs about $22 more than any museum of the Smithsonian. That we had a guide who laughed exactly like Eddie Murphy (and indeed could be played by Murphy in a movie – well maybe when Murphy is not making crappy family comedies) – with a splash of Carlton Banks thrown in … only added to the fun.