Tag Archive | Historical Landmark

All The Presidents’ Homes–Part 3

This morning is pretty much like the morning that Jeff and I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  It was grey, it was cold and it was rainy.  The sun wasn’t out making it feel colder than it was. But even in the grey, gloomy mist, Monticello shone brightly, surrounded by the beauty of the blooming flowers around her.

Thomas-Jefferson

Best known as the author of the Declaration of Independence, our third President was also a historian, philosopher, and plantation owner who served his country as a public official for more than five decades.  Thomas Jefferson was also the author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and founder of the University of Virginia.

Son of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph, he inherited a sizeable estate from his father and at the age of 26, began building Monticello.  Just three years later he married Martha Wayles Skelton.  They had six children with only two surviving to adulthood.  Sadly they only had 10 years together when she died.  Jefferson never remarried and continued to maintain Monticello as his home for the rest of his life.  He was always expanding and changing it.  He also inherited slaves from his father and father-in-law and owned about 200 slaves, about half of whom were under the age of 16.

Jefferson spent his adult life in public service whether as a lawyer, Governor of Virginia from 1779 go 1781, Trade Commissioner in France (1784) and then as Benjamin Franklin’s successor as minister, and Secretary of State under George Washington in 1790 and after a loss in the presidential race against John Adams, becomes Vice President in 1796. A two-term President, Jefferson defeated John Adams just four years later to become President of the United States in 1780. After his friend, James Madison, succeeds him as President in 1809, Jefferson lives the remaining 17 years of his life at Monticello.  It was during this time he sold his books to begin the Library of Congress collection and founded the University of Virginia at the age of 76.  He led the legislative campaign for its charter, secured the location, designed the buildings and planned the curriculum and also served as the first rector.

Jefferson dies at the age of 83 on July 4, 1826, just hours before his friend, John Adams and also on the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

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Jefferson’s beloved Monticello sits nestled in the mountaintop hills southeast of Charlottesville, Virginia, just down the road from the home of his friend, President James Madison. Open every day of the year except Christmas Day, Monticello’s hours gives you a choice of when you want to visit her.  We chose to visit in the early Spring month of April and while on our honeymoon several years ago.

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Construction of Monticello began in 1769 and the original design had fourteen rooms in the home which included the six in the cellar, five on the first floor and three on the second.  In 1796, Jefferson began work on a new design for remodeling and enlarging the house and was completed by 1809.  There are not a total of 43 rooms in the entire structure which includes 33 in the house itself and 4 in the Pavilions and 6 under the South Terrace.

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The ride on the bus from the Visitor’s Center to the house atop the hill is impressive, even in the rain! Of course, the excitement was building for me as I’d never been to Monticello.  No photography is allowed inside the house, so we decided to walk the grounds first before going on the tour.  All the photography and video you want to take is allowed on the grounds as long as it’s for personal use. 

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Tulips, pansies and bluebells line the walkways in the West Lawn garden. I saw varieties there that, for me, had only existed in books prior to our visit.  Needless to say, I wanted pictures of them all!

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Deep oranges, yellows, reds and whites and many more colors as well as other flowers can be found all over the grounds.  Lilac bushes, pansies…this is a flower gardener’s dream!

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We loved the rain drops on the flowers and tired to capture them on camera as beautiful as they were in person.

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Pansies are another one of my favorite flowers.

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Jefferson used the grounds of Monticello as a botanical laboratory utilizing not only the ornamental but also useful plants from all over the world. These flower gardens were not cared for by professionals but by his daughters and granddaughters and sometimes an elderly slave.

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I have always loved the reds and yellows of tulips, but the bi-colored ones hold a really special place for me.

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This is the fish pond where Jefferson’s cook would “catch” the fish for dinner.  Thus allowing them to have fresh fish at their meals.

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About one-third of the windows are original to the house.  They are nice, big and allow a lot of sunlight into the rooms.  And they are absolutely beautiful from the outside!

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From it’s beginning in 1770, the vegetable garden evolved over many years.  This 1,000-foot-long terrace was literally cut from the side of the mountain by slave labor and is supported by a massive rock wall.  At the half-way point is the infamous garden pavilion with its double sash windows.  This was used by Jefferson as a quiet retreat in the evenings.  Reportedly blown down in a violent storm in the late 1820s, the pavilion was reconstructed in 1984 through the use of Jefferson’s notes and archeological excavations.

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Jefferson was quite observant of the natural world.  He was always studying and recording, with remarkable detail, the events of the gardens.  In 1812, the twenty-four “squares” that divided the garden were arranged in part as to which part of the plant was being harvested: fruits, roots or leaves, etc.  And although the garden was a functional part of the plantation, Jefferson experimented with imported squashes and other vegetables and fruits from various parts of Europe.

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It was interesting to learn that Jefferson ate very little meat and used it as a compliment to the vegetables and legumes from his own gardens.  I loved the fact that salads were an important part of his diet as they are for me as well!

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Exiting from the house, you will step onto a beautiful walkway that leads into the garden.

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We loved our visit at Monticello and learned so much about Jefferson’s life here.  If you ever get the chance to visit Monticello, you should.  It’s well worth the afternoon.

All the Presidents’ Homes–Part 1

With only days until the Big Day, otherwise known as Election Day here in the United States, I thought it would be fun to show you the homes of former Presidents that my husband and I have visited together.  We’ve started with ones that are closest to us and when travelling, have sometimes discovered by accident that another President’s home was nearby.  We are working our way through our great country’s historical spots and hope you enjoy it nearly as much as we have.

The Hermitage – Nashville, Tennessee

This was the home and plantation of our 7th President, Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson.  Born into poverty of Irish immigrants in 1767, Andrew Jackson is originally from the Waxhaw region which sits on the border of North and South Carolina.  Jackson always claimed to be from South Carolina even though both states claim him as their native son.

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At the age of 13, he joins the fight against Britain in the Revolutionary War. It was during the 1780-1781 British invasion of the Carolinas that his mother and brothers died, leaving Jackson with a lifelong hatred towards Great Britain.  Jackson was actually taken prisoner and the story goes that upon refusal to shine a British officer’s boots, he was struck across the face with a saber leaving permanent scarring.

Without much formal education, Jackson taught himself law and was admitted to the Bar in North Carolina in 1787.  He later moved west of the Appalachian mountains to an area that would later become the State of Tennessee.  It was in this region where the city of Nashville was born.  Jackson became a successful prosecuting attorney and later married the love of his love, Rachel Donelson, daughter of a local colonel. Scandal wrapped this courtship because Rachel was still married to her former husband when she and Andrew Jackson became a couple in 1791. It wasn’t until 1794 at the finalization of her divorce that she and Jackson are legally married.  Theirs is a lifelong love story of a love that endures scandal, never faltering and holding them through the years.  Andrew was completely devoted to Rachel and even in death, rest side-by-side together in the garden tomb that he had built for her in 1831 and where he later joined her in 1845.  The prosperity enjoyed by the Jacksons enabled him to build this beautiful mansion shortly after Tennessee became the 16th State of the Union.  Andrew Jackson was an unconventional man and often times very controversial.  But he had fiercely held principles and a vision that rocked our young Nation politically, culturally and on the battlefield.  He was the first man elected to the US House of Representatives from Tennessee and was part of the convention that drafted the new State Constitution for Tennessee in 1796.

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Jackson first ran for President in 1824-1825 and receives the popular vote, but no candidate receives the majority electoral vote.  The House of Representatives had to choose between the 3 top candidates and ended up naming Adams as President after the Speaker of the House Henry Clay threw his support behind Adams.  Disgusted with the “corrupt bargain” between Clay and Adams, Jackson resigned from the Senate.  Jackson later served two terms as President from 1829 – 1837.  You’ll find the story behind our 7th President to be one of intrigue, color and riddled with a bold fierceness that many abhorred and many more admired.

The Hermitage is an impressive farm. Beautiful tree-lined roads where carriages were once driven are now pedestrian only.  Come prepared to walk quite a bit and wear comfortable shoes!  Along with the Visitor’s Center, there is a Café and museum store as well as a picnic area. There is a self-guided audio tour available in three versions – adult, family and Spanish – that is included in the regular admission.  You may also choose the personal interpreter-led tours, or hike the walking trail or stroll through the historic shrubs, trees, plants and flowers in the Gardens.

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Photography in encouraged all over the grounds, but inside the Mansion, it is not allowed.  There are period dressed tour guides that give you an overall historical view of each section you visit. Parts of the Plantation can be reached by car, then a short walk to the actual site. From the Visitor’s Center there is a beautiful pedestrian pathway leading up to the impressive, tree-lined entrance of The Hermitage. 

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These friendly staffers will also answer any questions you may have about General Jackson and his home.

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A wonderful close up view of the gutter near the top of the back side of the Mansion.  We were amazed at the detail, the date and even the President’s initials were there!

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Many of the buildings and cabins are no longer standing. Adjacent to the mansion is the beautiful flower garden and tomb of General and Mrs. Jackson as well as a small family cemetery.

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You’ll enjoy the peacefulness as well as the beauty of the surrounding flower garden.

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Another beautiful view of the expansive 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark property that started out as a 425-acre frontier farm.

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The wedding attire of the General and his wife, Rachel.  For me, it is always surprising to see just how tiny historical figures can be as compared to the height and stature of people today.

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One could easily spend all day here.  Bring a picnic or pick up lunch in the Café and spend the day learning about the first frontier President and the controversial role he played during a time when the biggest and most volatile political issues were Indian removal and slavery.

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This is the end of our first stop.  Join us again when we continue with All the Presidents’ Homes.