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Monticello Essay

2061 words - 8 pages

IntroductionIn May of 1768, Thomas Jefferson started to level out the land in which he had inherited from his father, Peter Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson intended to build his home on the gentle top of a 987 foot-high mountain in Albermarle, Virginia. He called this mountain Monticello, which means "little mountain" in old Italian.Thomas Jefferson, the self-taught architect, designed Monticello after ancient and Renaissance models and particularly after the work of Andrea Palladio, an Italian architect. In the location, a frontier mountaintop, and in design, a Renaissance villa, intentionally it was a cry from the other American homes of its day.The First MonticelloThe work on Monticello was largely completed in 1782. The first floor of the house featured a parlor, a bedroom, a dining room, and a drawing room. As the house neared completion, Jefferson's wife died, as he wrote, leaving him with "a blank which I had not the spirits to fill up" .As of 1784, Thomas Jefferson was appointed to diplomatic service in France. While he was there, he was a keen observer of the architecture. The Hôtel de Salm strongly influenced the redesign for Monticello.Then, as early as 1790, Thomas Jefferson began planning revisions for Monticello, based partly on what he had observed in France. In 1796, the walls of the original home were knocked down to make room for an expansion that would then double the floorplan of the house. This new plan called for a hallway that would connect the older rooms of the house to a new set of rooms on the east. The year Jefferson retired from Presidency is the year in which Monticello was largely completed, in 1809.The Second MonticelloAmong one of the many French elements in which Jefferson incorporated into the second Monticello, the most dramatic was the dome placed over the already-existing Parlor. This made it the first home in America with such a feature. He had made the building to give it the appearance, as he had seen at the Hôtel de Salm in France, that the three-story building was only one story tall. Jefferson achieved this effect by making the windows on the second story bedrooms on the floor level, so that from outside, they appear to be an extension from the first-story windows. Also on the third floor, light is provided by skylights invisible from the ground. Two more French features incorporated into Monticello are alcove beds and indoor privies. Although Patrick Henry was referring to food, anyone can understand why he claimed that Jefferson's time abroad was "Frenchified".Thomas Jefferson's revisions for Monticello called for even smaller stairways than what he had used for the original design. Two steep and narrow stairways, only measuring about twenty-four inches wide, provided access to the upper bedrooms. These stairways widen to thirty inches as they descend to the basement level, which then affords more space for tasks such as bringing food from the kitchen to the dining room. Jefferson believed...

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