Bedchamber

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Dimensions: 18' 7"x 13' 5"; ceiling 18' 8"

Order: Ionic  

Source: Temple of Fortuna Virilis from Palladio; frieze from Desgodetz, Les Édifices Antiques de Rome.

Color: There is evidence that the room was once wallpapered; today it is painted oyster white.

Purpose of Room: Bedroom  

Architectural Features: Alcove Bed, open on both sides, joins the Bedroom with Jefferson's Cabinet, or office -- a hinged, double-door screen (not shown today) separated the two rooms when shut; a privy was located near one end of the bed, an early example of indoor bathroom facilities in America; the room features one of the house's thirteen skylights; closet over the bed utilized space efficiently and was accessible via ladder.

Furnishings of Note: Clothes "horse" in closet (not shown in the house today); obelisk clock at foot of bed enabled Jefferson to get out of bed "with the sun"; crimson silk counterpane with fringe (designed by Jefferson) covered the bed; mirrors were used to maximize the natural light.

Objects on Display in this Room

Primary Source References

1807. (Sir Augustus John Foster). "...the President had his bed placed in a doorway..."[1]

1814. (Francis Calley Gray). "Mr. Jefferson took us from his library into his bed chamber where, on a table before the fire, stood a polygraph with which he said he always wrote."[2]

1815 November 4. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "In the closet over my bed you will find a bag tied up, and labelled 'Wolf-skin pelisse' and another labelled 'fur boots,' wherein those articles are found. The pelisse had better be sowed up in a striped blanket to keep it clean and uninjured; the boots in any coarse wrapper."[3]

1823 January 18. (Margaret Bayard Smith). "The bed is built into the wall, in a sort of alcove, which in winter must be very comfortable, as it excludes every draught of air--but in the summer, must for the same reason be very uncomfortable. I observed the same arrangement in all the chambers I saw. On the wall, at the foot of the bed was hung his pistols and sword, which I imagine has not been removed for many a year: against the wall, at the head of his bed, was a lamp, which enabled him, when he wished to read, to do it with great safety and convenience."[4]

Footnotes

Discussion

says

On tour in May of 2010, while in the bedroom, the tour guide provided some details on the President's death. He told the tour party I was in that minutes before Jefferson passed away, hundreds of miles to the north, President Adams, who passed away on the same day, uttered his prophetic last words, "Thomas Jefferson survives." Adams did say those words-roughly 5 hours before he passed away, around 6:20 P.M. His last words, though, were of a different sort, whispering "help me child...help me..." in the ear of his granddaughter, Susana.

says

This photo of Jefferson’s bedchamber almost includes the skylight on the ceiling. It does include the three elliptical windows cut into the wall to provide sunlight and ventilation to a clothing closet. When Jefferson redesigned Monticello, perhaps much of his rationale was to bring more natural light into the house. I was on tour with my group which included a man whose hearing was impaired and his companion, also his signer. By the time we got to Jefferson’s bedchamber our group had already transformed from just a bunch of strangers to a group of people becoming comfortable with each other. As we walked into the bedchamber, I asked the signer how she would sign for the word “light”. She countered by asking me “natural” or “electrical”. We all laughed and I had to respond, “Oh, let it be natural”. She put her thumb and middle finger of both hands together and just flicked up toward the sky and yes, the skylight! It was just perfect! I now tell this story on tour to demonstrate natural sunlight. If you are curious (as our whole group was) about how to sign for electrical light, think light bulb and open and close one hand into a fist quickly (twice).

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