A lot has been happening recently at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello near Charlottesville, Virginia, making a visit more worth while than ever. For starters, based on extensive archaeological and documentary evidence, the upper chamber of the South Pavilion has been newly furnished to reflect its many purposes as a bed and sitting room when Jefferson brought his bride to Monticello in 1772.
Reflecting the importance in Jefferson’s life of good food and wine, several of the other recent initiatives build on the important restoration a number of years ago of the 1809 kitchen—one of the most modern and best equipped in the early republic. The most stunning recent change is in the dining room, where the much-copied Wedgwood blue that adorned the walls since 1936 has been replaced by a brilliant chrome yellow. Meticulous paint research revealed that about 1815 Jefferson had the walls painted with this fashionable—and extremely expensive— pigment, the reinstallation of which prompted other changes to the room, so that it better represents its central role in life at Monticello.
In addition, the wine cellar below the dining room, and easily accessible from it by Jefferson’s innovative dumbwaiters with “trolleys” for conveying bottles, has also been restored. Provisioned with a variety of vessels and other paraphernalia illuminating the acquisition and consumption of what Jefferson considered a “necessary of life,” the wine cellar installation will also tell the story of the slaves who worked in it. Nearby, a final new exhibit, entitled “Crossroads: Domestic Work at Monticello” explores the hustle and bustle that characterized the basement at Monticello, where Jefferson family members, wagoneers delivering supplies, and enslaved cooks, maids, and houseboys all crossed paths.
Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia · www.monticello.org
Photo: Newly restored dining room at Monticello.