Visitors to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's former plantation and home, will get a glimpse of what life was like in 18th century Virginia for both slave owner and slaves.
Located near Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello was once a thriving 5,000 acre plantation. There are records - which can be viewed online - that name each of the over 600 slaves that it took to run the plantation and its various operations that included, in addition to agriculture, nail making, textile production and barrel making.
The mansion sits just as did when it was completed in the year 1784. Designed by Jefferson, the construction began in 1769. In 1796, a remodel and expansion project was started that took until 1809 to complete.
It was in 1770, while construction was still under way that Jefferson first moved into the south pavilion. The home consists of 43 rooms. There are 33 rooms in the main house, 4 in the pavilion and another 6 rooms located under the south terrace.
Much of the material used to build the house was gleaned from or produced at Monticello. The bricks and nails were made on site and most of the timber came from Jefferson's own land. Because it was to be a fine house, some materials had to be shipped to the Monticello.
All of the glass was imported from Europe and the window sashes, which were made from mahogany, were fashioned in Philadelphia. The 11,000 square foot house, which is an example of Roman neoclassicism, has 13 skylights, 8 fireplaces and 5 indoor toilets, which Jefferson called air closets.
There have been some reports that there was a rudimentary plumbing system in place, but there is no physical evidence of that at Monticello. Most likely, the toilets were emptied by removing and dumping the chamber pots.
The home was heated by using the fireplaces. Ten cords of wood per month were required to keep the home warm during the Virginia winters. Amazingly, about 1/3 of the glass in the home at Monticello is original as are 60% of the furnishings.
Many workers, both slaves and free, lived at Monticello. While there is documentation that some of Jefferson's slaves could read and write, it is not known if Jefferson encouraged such activity or if the slaves learned to read and write in secret.
Visitors to Monticello not only tour the house, but are able to tour the beautiful grounds as well. This is why it is recommended to come during the seasons when there is mild weather.
It is known that Jefferson loved his home at Monticello and it is this home that appears on the back side of the nickel. Unfortunately, Monticello would not remain in Jefferson's family after his death.
When Jefferson died, he left a large amount of debt ($107,000) behind. The house was left to his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, but because of the debt, she sold the house along with 552 acres for $4500.
Today the house is owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation which acquired it from the Levy family in 1923. The house and the 2,000 acres upon which it sits are a national treasure and about 500,000 people visit the site each year.