Tag Archives: Thomas Jefferson

Architecture: Monticello

There were actually two Monticellos. After the first was completed, Thomas Jefferson returned from serving in Europe and more than doubled the size of his signature home. Uploaded by community.klipsch.com.

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.

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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?

Americana: Mount Rushmore

Washington, as the first president, Jefferson for the Louisiana Purchase, Lincoln for unifying the country, and Teddy Roosevelt for leading into the 20th century. Uploaded by surveying.mentablolism.org.

Okay, first the amazing scale of Mount Rushmore. The memorial covers 1,278 acres. The heads of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln are about 60 feet across. At that rate, the entire bodies would have been 465 feet tall. The carving took fourteen years to complete, and more than 800 million pounds of stone were removed during its creation.

Located near Keystone, South Dakota, Mount Rushmore was called “Six Grandfathers” by the nearby Lakota Indians. A local historian conceived of turning it into a monument to our presidents as a way of increasing tourism in South Dakota. It’s definitely accomplished that goal – more than two million people visit the monument each year.

Mount Rushmore was a giant prop in Hitchcock's North by Northwest. Uploaded by whatsontv.co.uk.

Chosen as the sculptor was Gutzon Borglun, a student of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Borglun was the natural choice, having just completed the carving of Confederate generals on Stone Mountain, Georgia. Carving began in 1927, supervised alternately by Gutzon and his son, Lincoln. Sadly, Gutzon Borglun didn’t live to see the dedication, dying from an embolism just before the monument’s dedication in March, 1941.

Oh, and if you think Congress only recently started losing its senses, consider this: In 1937, a bill was introduced to add the head of Susan B. Anthony to the mountain. Really. You can’t make this stuff up.