The area in the back of the house also has a gorgeously manicured garden.
We even caught a glimpse of this beautiful butterfly.
After walking through the garden and pond, we headed over to the south side of the grounds to explore Jefferson’s vegetable garden.
This 1000 foot long garden terrace makes any backyard garden look pettily in comparison. Jefferson (aka his slaves and servants) grew over 330 vegetable varieties in these gardens.
Besides being mammoth in side, the garden boasts another unique feature, a pavilion overlooking the mountains.
The pavilion was the perfect place for a little picture taking fun.
Can you imagine how many nights Jefferson must have spent out here gazing at the stars? How beautiful!
We took the opportunity to sit here on some benches and take in the beautiful scenery. Living in the city, we often don’t get to see the mountains so we made sure to take a breath and soak it all in.
When we finished with our breather, we decided to explore the cellar level of the house. As I mentioned yesterday, Jefferson designed Monticello’s northern and southern terrace to disguise the outbuildings that lie below.
In this lower level, you find the innerworkings of the plantation—the cellar, the ice house, the stables, the kitchen, etc.
Of particular note was the Ice House. Every winter, Jefferson would cultivate ice from the nearby Rivanna River and store it here. The ice he collected would last an entire year in this cool structure.
On the other side of the lower level lies the other unique feature—the kitchen. Having fallen deeply in love with French cooking during his time in Europe, Jefferson wanted to recreate his own French kitchen here in the States. In order to make the distinct French sauces, he needed a kitchen equipped for sauté pans.
He actually designed the kitchen to have 4 burners on a stew stove that worked like modern day stove tops, except of course for the fire.
Once we were finished exploring the lower level, it was time for our second tour, the Behind the Scenes tour. We decided to purchase these extra tickets because they were the only way that we could explore the second and third floors of Monticello.
We again met our guide outside where she gave us some background information about the other floors of Monticello. These floors are not included in the house tour for a multitude of reasons. Originally, these floors were used by the Foundation for their offices. When the Foundation’s latest president arrived, she insisted that the offices be moved to a different location so that guests could explore these floors as well. On top of that, the floors are rather treacherous. The stairs to ascend to the second and third floor are very narrow and steep (Jefferson thought staircases were a waste of space). Making things worse, these floors have no temperature control so they get incredibly comfortable in the summer and winter (trust me it was hot!)
With those warnings in place, she walked us to the second level. Unfortunately, we were once again not allowed to take pictures (except of the Dome Room). Since the Foundation has just started to redo these floors, many of the rooms only have a few pieces of furniture.
Although the rooms were empty, our guide used her beautifully interwoven stories to illuminate the rooms and the past. Her passion and love for all things Jefferson was undeniable and at points breathtaking. In one of the rooms, she stopped to tell us about Jefferson’s life as a grandfather. He was said to be a very gracious and loving grandfather. He even had a desk specially hand carved for his favorite granddaughter. Unfortunately, the original desk never made it to her as the boat it was sailing on sunk. To replace it, Jefferson sent her one of his favorite desks with a note asking that she keep the desk in the family as it may be of value some day. In 1991, the same desk returned to Monticello with four armed guards. It was the desk on which Jefferson had written the Declaration of Independence. At this point, she started to choke up and get tear-eyed, stating, “this story gets me every time.”
As if to try to top that moment, she then led us up to the dome room where we could finally take pictures.
The room is just as big and beautiful as it looks in pictures. The walls are adorned in a mustard yellow while the floor is covered in green.
The windows are bigger than life and let in a heavenly amount of light.
Interestingly enough, although Jefferson spent an immeasurable amount of time perfecting this room, it never really served a purpose. The documents show that this room was often unoccupied and frequently used as storage. It turns out that while the windows made for great lighting, they also made the room’s temperature unbearable.
Jefferson’s grandchildren did have fun in this room despite the extreme temperatures. They turned this storage closest in the front of the room into a fairy palace. I can just imagine little children crawling around with toys down there.
This was truly the single most beautiful aspect of Monticello. I literally didn’t stop taking pictures until we had to leave.
With that our tour was over and so was our day at Monticello. It was close to closing time and we had eaten since breakfast.
I definitely recommend everyone checking out Monticello if they have the chance. I would also highly recommend taking the Behind the Scenes tour. Heck you drove all the way to the middle of nowhere, you might as well pay the extra few dollars to see all the levels.
I only hope that you will get a tour guide as wonderful as ours.
Stay tuned for the next post in this Charlottesville series, where I’ll talk about our bed and breakfast, the Dinsmore Inn, and hiking in Charlottesville.