Thomas Jefferson loved the neoclassical look, witness the design of his other project in Charlottesville, the University of Virginia. He was greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, whose design principles Jefferson incorporated in the home he built at the top of a rolling hill in the Virginia countryside. He named it Monticello: “Little Mountain.”
There were actually two versions of Monticello, the second overlaying the first. Jefferson built his first version in 1768, but during his tenure as the U.S. Minister to France, he got to see actual examples of architectural styles he’d only been able to read about previously. Then, following his service as the first Secretary of State, he began rebuilding based on what he’d seen overseas. Monticello 2, the one we know today, is twice the size of the original home.
For a century following Jefferson’s death the house bounced from owner to owner. Some took care of the property, some didn’t. In 1923, the private Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the home and had it restored. It’s now operated as a private museum, and while visitors aren’t permitted in all its 43 rooms, much of the home is on public display.
Among the most fascinating aspects of Monticello are the inventions and innovations Jefferson incorporated into the house. These include a revolving bookstand, a dumbwaiter, a swivel desk chair, and a polygraph machine with many pens that made multiple copies of anything Jefferson wrote.
Monticello is widely recognized as one of America’s architectural masterpieces. But which do you think is more significant – that it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or that it’s been on the back of the nickel coin since 1938?