Monticello & Charlottesville

After three days in Williamsburg, we took an almost two-hour drive to Monticello just outside Charlottesville. While nickels have always made me wonder about Thomas Jefferson’s famous house on a hill top, I was surprised at how small it actually is. We were given a tour by a nice fellow named David who told us about the myriad novelties in the building and some related tales. The touch screens (a fun & informative display) were in the visitor’s center and the nickels are in our Holiday Inn…

According to David, Jefferson was not an inventor but an adopter. The cannonball powered clock not only gave seconds but also days of the week (however, his adoption put Saturday below the floor). There is a dumb waiter for wine bottles, an automatic french door (both sides open/close together), and long windows that can become doors. We didn’t see the indoor toilet I’d heard about, but I did find the privy air vent.

In addition to the tour of the house, we took the Slavery Tour given by a former teacher named Tom. The story of Jefferson is a paradox. While he famously wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he owned slaves – over 600 of them during his life (and only freed about 10). Nowadays, his relationship with his slave Sally Hemings is well-known (DNA documented), but during his life and for almost 200 years after it was hidden. When I asked if they had a relationship or if it was rape, Tom said we can’t know from the evidence, but that Sally did not have “agency” (choice in the matter) and that if she was pregnant when they returned from Paris it constituted statutory rape.

In fact, our visit to Monticello was a lesson in slavery and the culture of a slave-run plantation – something that is relatively new in the history of the place. Better late than never? That Jefferson, who we want to acknowledge for his inspiration, guidance, and Renaissance Man qualities, was in fact a raging hypocrite is hard to ignore. The pix below show some of Monticello and the surrounding gardens as well as many displays depicting the slavery that went on there…

Most of this set of pix is from a visit to the pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville. There was a concert in the Pavilion, and after strolling it’s length we had dinner outside. (The pano with double-Veronica is at the Monticello visitor’s center.)

While it was nice to be able to stroll and dine with the relatives of slaves on an equal footing in sometimes – but not always – charming Charlottesville, our tour guide David acknowledged the horrible rally of white supremacists last August. (Another article about that incident.)

After a nice night at the Holiday in and before driving up to Washington DC, we stopped by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to visit the campus, see the rotunda, and have a long chat (incidentally) with two nice “ambassadors” there.

Round the Rotunda…

2 thoughts on “Monticello & Charlottesville

  1. Hooray for you– Your time has been well-spent, first in the viewing/experiencing and then in the written reflecting–XO

    Like

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