“I cannot live without books,” — Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Monticello is the extraordinary home and grounds of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third president of the United States for eight years and author of the Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom. Access writings of Thomas Jefferson here: constitutionfacts.com.
Monticello is a vast estate. We recommend scheduling at least a half-day to include the tour, time to explore the agricultural grounds, and a quick meal break back at the Visitor’s Center.
When you arrive, you will need to purchase tickets, then line up to be taken by tram to the home where the tours begin. The tour guide will explain how the Jeffersons lived and why Jefferson read so much.
Even on a sweltering summer day, the home is cool inside and much of the outdoor path along the grounds is shaded well. Still, the property beckons visitors to long walks so it is best to arrive early while the Southern sun is still your friend. Definitely wear a hat for shade and comfortable shoes.
From the house, guides will provide you with information about the estate as well as the person of Thomas Jefferson. Our favorite story was about the importance of Jefferson’s library in refurbishing the Library of Congress after a fire. Everyone knew who had the most books! Jefferson was an obvious choice.
Read more about Thomas Jefferson here: history.com. Jefferson was brilliant and complex. He believed in freedom but owned slaves, a contradiction historians have wrestled with throughout US history. Some of the places where slaves lived and worked are still visit-able on the property.
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were very close friends. The stories you will hear from guides at their homes may cover different ground so it’s helpful to hear it all. For information about James Madison’s Montpelier, see our Author Adventures page about it here: James Madison in Virginia.
Where To Stay
A bed-and-breakfast is situated at the edge of the original border of Jefferson’s property and was a rest stop for many dignitaries, including Theodore Roosevelt (read about Roosevelt in our North Dakota section). It remains in operation today as “Inn at the Crossroads” (crossroadsinn.com).
According to its website: “In the spring of 1823, a meeting between Thomas Jefferson and Martin Van Buren was held in the Dabney Carr room which was the private dining room at the time. Jefferson was either traveling to or from Poplar Forest to be with his grandson Frances Eppes and his family. Teddy Roosevelt visited the tavern for supper following a day of birding while visiting his beloved Pine Knot. Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a visit to the tavern in 1936 when he made a speech from the front porch prior to dedicating the George Washington National Forest.”
Ask the owner about the fascinating history. Plus, if you are as lucky as we were, you might even leave with freshly hatched eggs to take on the road.
Monticello is the third stop on our Virginia Author Adventures Trail.