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Cost of Monticello
No one so far has managed to calculate the cost of Monticello with any degree of accuracy. However, the following are several dollar figures that we do know:
- Jefferson estimated the value of the house and outbuildings for insurance purposes in 1800 at $6300.
- In his accounting of building costs for the period of 4 March 1801 to 4 March 1802 (including workmen's salaries, building materials, and other miscellaneous items), Jefferson noted a total of $2076.29. He calculated his building costs for the following 12-month period to be $3587.92.
Taking the figure of $3587.92, just as an example, and multiplying that by the number of years it took to complete Monticello (28), the total would be $100,461.76. However, there are many variables unaccounted for in this calculation and thus it likely only represents a fraction of the true cost of constructing Monticello. For example, some of the building materials were purchased, and some were made by hand at Monticello; some materials and labor were not paid for with cash but were bartered; and the cost of food, clothing and housing for enslaved workers is not factored into Jefferson's yearly estimates, either. A thorough examination of Jefferson's Memorandum Books might yield a more accurate estimate than the one above, but could probably not ever be considered a definitive figure.
Translating such a figure into today's money adds another layer of complication to this question. There is no easy way to do this, although there are sources that can serve as a guide in making the attempt (see Further Sources below).
- McCusker, John J. How Much is That in Real Money?: a Historical Commodity Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2001.