Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

Since Jill is out with me this weekend, we thought to go down to Monticello on the way to Richmond to 'check out' Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. I've always wanted to visit - and this seemed like a great opportunity to do so!

I had heard of a special event this morning, the Director of Horticulture at the Monticello Foundation was giving a walking tour of the forests and trees of Monticello - so I signed us up! I knew Jill would enjoy it - and I've never been very good at understanding the differences between trees. This area of Virgina Piedm
ont is all forested! Way Forested! - We walked along a path around the Monticello area learning about the different types of trees. The forest we were in was an abandoned fruit orchard, and in just 60 years - the natural forest trees have totally taken over the site. Oaks, Poplars, Hemlock, Ash, Elm, and a wide variety of other trees. It was a great 2 1/2 hours of walking through the forest.

There was over 1,000 feet of 'kitchen vegetable gardens' along the side of the main house.

Then on to the actual house of Monticello - yes it is old - like 237 years old - but still in amazing shape. It was the 'cutting edge' in design and technology. check it out at for more information.

I was expecting to be more impressed with Thomas Jefferson from this visit, but like I was sharing with Jill, I left more disappointed. The man who wrote the Declaration of Independence supposedly abhorred slavery, yet own over 600 in his lifetime. He was given over 5,000 acres of prime farmland, but with all his skills he died totally penniless, in debt for over $100,000 (and in 1826 that was a LOT of money) making his family sell everything and still not have nearly enough to pay off his debts.

He was a great man, yet lived like the pinnacle of society, the top of a large pyramid of humans to give him the ability to live his lifestyle - and didn't see why more people couldn't be like him. It is the ultimate in egocentricity...

I was very impressed with all that was accomplished and the many advancements - but can't ignore the costs to all those around him.

He was a prolific letter writer, in one year alone, over 1,200 letters - all written by hand and with copies made for each. He also kept meticulous records of every 'penny' he spent in his lifetime, yet ended in such horrendous debt. It boggles the mind!

We had an enjoyable time learning even more at the old visitor's center a couple of miles from Monticello, then drove on to Richmond for dinner and to catch "Harry Potter 5" - both Jill and I loved it!

Tomorrow is Williamsburg, VA - it should be quite fun.


Karrissa said...

Dad- That looks beautiful! I am glad you and mom are having a great time with mom. I am glad you liked HP5- it was awesome huh? I love you dad and enjoy the time when you are at home!

Mom said...

Keith, I was amazed at the trees and all you wrote about Jefferson. I am like you - it boggles the mind to think he left that kind of debt just so he could live the lifestyle he wanted. How disappointing.