Interesting facts about Monticello


Monticello is the home of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the University of Virginia.

It is located in south-central Virginia, about 3,2 kilometers (2 miles) southeast of Charlottesville.

Jefferson began designing and building Monticello at age 26 after inheriting land from his father.

The plantation was originally 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres), with Jefferson using slaves for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets.

Jefferson’s home was built to serve as a plantation house, which ultimately took on the architectural form of a villa.


Work began on Monticello in 1768, and Jefferson moved into the South Pavilion (an outbuilding) in 1770.

The original design was based on the classical style of Palladian architecture.

When Jefferson left Monticello in 1784 for extended travels in Europe, the original design of the house was largely completed except for porticos and decorative interior woodwork.

Upon his return, Jefferson expanded his vision for Monticello to incorporate features of Palladian buildings and ruins he admired overseas.


Further work to the new design began in 1796.

Construction of Monticello was substantially completed in 1809 with the erection of its distinctive dome.

Monticello is 33.5 meters (110 feet) long, 26.7 meters (87.7 feet) wide, (to outer faces of porticoes), 13.6 meters (44.6 feet) high, (to oculus of dome).

There are a total of forty-three rooms in the entire structure: thirty-three in the house itself (cellar, twelve; first floor, eleven; second floor, six; third floor, four); four in the pavilions; and six under the South Terrace. The stable and carriage bays under the North Terrace are not included in these totals. The first design of Monticello had fourteen rooms total (cellar, six; first floor, five; second floor, three).


There are eight fireplaces and two openings for stoves on the main floor of the house.

Monticello has about 1,000 square meters (11,000 square feet) of living area, including the cellars below the house, but not including the pavilions or rooms under the terraces.

Situated on the summit of an 260 meter (850-foot)-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap, the name Monticello derives from the Italian for “little mount.”

Jefferson died on the Fourth of July, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

At Jefferson’s direction, he was buried on the grounds, in an area now designated as the Monticello Cemetery.

monticello cemetery

After Jefferson died, his only official surviving daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, inherited Monticello.

Because Jefferson died more than $107,000 in debt, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph and her son and financial manager, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, found it necessary first to sell nearly all of the contents of Monticello and then to sell the plantation itself.

They sold Monticello to James Turner Barclay, a local apothecary. Barclay sold it in 1834 to Uriah P. Levy, the first Jewish Commodore (equivalent to today’s admiral) in the United States Navy.

In 1923, a private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, purchased the house from Jefferson Levy with funds raised by Theodore Fred Kuper and others.

The Foundation operates Monticello and its grounds as a house museum and educational institution.


Visitors can wander the grounds, as well as tour rooms in the cellar and ground floor. More expensive tour pass options include sunset hours, as well as tours of the second floor and the third floor including the iconic dome.

Due to its architectural and historic significance, the property has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

In 1987, Monticello and the University of Virginia’s Academical Village were together named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is the only private home in the United States to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Monticello’s image has appeared on U.S. currency and postage stamps.

Monticello appeared on the reverse of the two-dollar bill from 1928 to 1966, when the bill was discontinued. Note the two “Levy lions” on either side of the entrance. The lions, placed there by Jefferson Levy, were removed in 1923 when the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the house.


An image of the west front of Monticello by Felix Schlag has been featured on the reverse of the nickel minted since 1938.

On April 13, 1956, the U.S. Post Office issued a postage stamp honoring Monticello.

During the Civil War the South seized Monticello because it was owned by a Northerner. It was briefly owned by Benjamin Ficklin, a Confederate army officer, but returned to the Levy family after the war.

The house is similar in appearance to Chiswick House, a Neoclassical house inspired by the architect Andrea Palladio built in 1726-9 in London.

In 2016 a Connecticut home that is a replica of Monticello has been sold at auction for $2.1 million, far below the $7.7 million it cost to build in 2014.