SOUTH BAY DIGS | Digital Edition Online

February 9, 2018

DIGS is the premiere luxury real estate lifestyle magazine serving the most affluent neighborhoods in the South Bay and Westside of Los Angeles, California.

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54 DIGS.NET | 2.9.2018 L ocated outside Charlottesville, Virginia, Jefferson called Monticello his "essay in architecture," one that commanded several revisions. Construction that began in 1769 was le unfinished while Jefferson served five years as minister to France. Steeped in that country's metropolitan culture, Jefferson began to rethink the project and, upon returning to America, jettisoned his original plans. Among the numerous improvements he made until the project was complete in 1809 was to tear down part of the initial structure and build around it, reorganize interior spaces at great expense, and add the home's signature dome. Derivative of Greco-Roman design, with porticos and a Palladian language, Monticello is quintessentially American in that Jefferson designed a "framework for living," says Monticello curator Susan Stein, a way to organize and orchestrate domestic life. Which is to say didactically. Jefferson filled his life with books, study and conversation, so while a cultivated environment, Monticello is also self-consciously anti-aristocratic—a place of 43 rooms (33 in the house itself ) that appears to be smaller than it is. It's not false modes, exactly, but one does not find, for example, something like a grand stairway to suggest aristocratic ascent to the higher level. Into this classical context Jefferson brings comfort and convenience. His cabinet, or study, is a model of efficiency, with a revolving desk chair, a worktable with a moving top and a rotating stand for holding books, pamphlets or papers. ere is a Windsor bench for stretching his legs and physical evidence of his curiosities. "He doesn't keep his interests hidden—they're everywhere," says Stein of Jefferson's maps, globes and correspondence. "His purpose is to educate. He uses Monticello as kind of his laboratory, a proto-museum, to educate people. He has a large collection of paintings from France. He has sculpture and portraits of America's founders." Completing Monticello proved something of a Sisyphean task (skilled tradesmen were in short supply and politics took Jefferson to France, Philadelphia and Washington DC for prolonged periods), but "It's what he did," says Peter Onuf, distinguished fellow with the American Antiquarian Socie. "It's the work of perfection, of getting it right. It suggests an attitude toward life, aspirations and the old idea that work is life. In a way, Jefferson keeps the place in constant turmoil because he's not looking for a place of repose, of stasis, of stopping. It's the very dynamism that he lives with and causes to happen. I think it's very important to his sense of who he is in the world. While there are technical explanations for why he doesn't get around to putting the columns up front, it's knowing the man and what gives him satisfaction in life." Broadly, Monticello informed Jefferson's later projects, including the Universi of Virginia, with its domes Rotunda and connected pavilions, which he established. It also paved the way for the country's temple-fronted public architecture, the capitol buildings and courthouses that define our civic identi. Both a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO Heritage Site (the only home so designated in the United States), Monticello is stewarded by the omas Jefferson Foundation and visited by millions. But with preservation and restoration efforts ongoing, Monticello is what it has always been: a work in progress. (previous page) Monticello mountain in the fall. (this page, clockwise from top) e Library; Mulberry Row; springtime at Monticello; gardens; the Entrance Hall. L E G E N D S | M O N T I C E L L O

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