the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

13
April

Thomas Jefferson Day

Posted by Brittany

The buildings and grounds are not only beautiful (in the 1780s a French visitor wrote that Jefferson was “the first American who had consulted the Fine Arts to know how he should shelter himself from weather”), but they are also home to several innovations engineered to help make life’s daily tasks more convenient, such as a giant ice house, Jefferson’s take on automatic doors, and the first American skylights. When the fascinating tour was complete we walked through the dependencies and gardens (which boasted the largest tulips I’ve ever seen!) and visited Jefferson’s burial site. Oddly, the obelisk that marks Jefferson’s final resting place notes his birthday as “APRIL 2, 1743 O.S.” A quick trip to the internet revealed that, while his birthday is April 13 according to the Gregorian calendar that was adopted when Jefferson was just nine years old, at the time of his birth the colonies were still operating under the Julian calendar, by then eleven days behind. Before we left for home we stopped at the large visitors center, which features a museum, shop, cafe, and theater, and watched a brief film about Jefferson and his masterpiece at Monticello.

I’ve visited many historic homes during my various travels, but today’s trip to Monticello gave me a new favorite. The buildings and grounds, and the history of their design and multiple re-designs are a manifestation of this complicated and sometimes conflicted man’s brilliance, inspiration, and ideals. Nobody has said it better than Jefferson himself: “I am as happy no where else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello. Too many scenes of happiness mingle themselves with all the recollections of my native woods and feilds, to suffer them to be supplanted in my affection by any other.”

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson!

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