Dan’s girlfriend and her roommate are visiting this weekend, and we all went to Monticello yesterday. We stopped at the scenic overlook on Afton Mountain:
It was another incredible experience – Virginia has really done the presidents’ homes right. After you buy your tickets, a shuttle takes you from the visitor’s center to the main house, and you have a few minutes to look around outside before your house tour. Jefferson’s garden was stunning, with each plant marked with its variety, and an incredible view from wherever you looked:
There’s no photography allowed inside the house itself, but it was clear that Jefferson was a gadget guy. The indoor plantation clock, in the main hall, has both an inside and an outside face, and pendulum weights that are suspended by pulleys across the ceiling. On the wall, Jefferson marked each day, Monday through Saturday, and as the weights dropped over the course of the week, you could tell which day it was by the position of the weights on the wall. Saturday, the day before the clock was wound again, is all the way in the basement, through a hole in the floor. There were also self-closing doors – I’ve no idea how they worked, but the mechanism Jefferson invented is still fully functioning after two hundred years.
Someone in our group asked if Jefferson was British, which was a silly question. Later on the terrace, someone asked if any of the enormous trees around us would have been here in Jefferson’s time, which I initially thought was a silly question. But it wasn’t – the massive oaks and tulip poplars that stretched hundreds of feet into the sky, with trunks that were bigger than my house, wouldn’t even have been seedlings when Jefferson lived here. That struck me. That, right there, is a perfect sign of how old this house was. Unbelievable.