As I may have mentioned once or twice, one of the best things about being a pilot is the ability to see things from a unique perspective. On a recent flight home from Asheville, I realized I would be flying past one of Virginia’s most marvelous and historic homes and quickly reached for my camera. How fortunate to be able to see Monticello from a vantage point that was never available to Thomas Jefferson – one can only imagine what he would have thought!
The photograph may not be postcard-quality, but the scene itself is spectacular, looking north over the house and a significant portion of its grounds, including Jefferson’s vegetable gardens and the Weaver’s Cottage. Not present until the early 1960s, Interstate 64 is visible near the top of the photo.
Thomas Jefferson began construction on Monticello in 1769, although extensive work to clear and level the mountain started the previous year. Work on the “original” Monticello was largely complete by the time Jefferson sailed to Europe in 1784 to join John Adams and Benjamin Franklin as a diplomat in Paris.
After Jefferson’s service as George Washington’s first secretary of state, he “retired” to Monticello and soon began extensive renovations and remodeling which were to last throughout his presidency. Interestingly, many of the materials used were sourced locally – timber and limestone from Jefferson’s land and nails from his own nailery.
Because Jefferson died with debts far exceeding the value of his assets, his family had no choice but to liquidate most of his estate including Monticello and its furnishings. The property changed hands several times over the ensuing century and was finally sold to its current owners (the Thomas Jefferson Foundation) in the early 1920s.
Here was my parting view of Monticello looking southward as I descended into the Washington DC area: