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The Monticello House

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Monticello’s West Front.

Monticello’s West Front.
Thomas Jefferson Foundation

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Jefferson, an avid chess player, acquired this set while living in Paris as American minister to France. The red pieces represent Africans, and the white pieces represent Frenchmen.

Chessmen, ivory, French, ca. 1770–90.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

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Jefferson’s walking sticks included one of whalebone, ivory, and gold (top) given to him by his friend Joseph C. Cabell, who, with Jefferson, was instrumental in founding the University of Virginia.

Top: Walking stick, whalebone, ivory, and gold, 1809.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

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Jefferson bought “table furniture” soon after arriving in Paris in 1784. As American minister to Paris, he outfitted his own house. Jefferson later used at Monticello many of the household goods he acquired in Paris.

Tablespoon and forks, fiddle and thread pattern, silver, French, 1784.

Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

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James Hemings accompanied Jefferson to Paris in 1784 and learned the art of French cooking. At Monticello, he received his freedom after training his brother Peter. Jefferson favored French cuisine and particularly enjoyed vegetables. From 1789 until Jefferson’s death, the...

Vegetable dish with cover, silver, French, 1786–87.
Thomas Jefferson Foundation

Jefferson designed one of the most architecturally significant residences in America. The first Monticello was a two-story, eight-room house that revealed his knowledge of classical architecture. In 1796, inspired by neoclassical buildings he had seen while serving as American minister to France, Jefferson began transforming Monticello into a three-story, 21-room brick structure. Inside and out, Jefferson’s free and enslaved workmen made his design a reality. Jefferson filled his house with furnishings and collections reflecting his education, broad interests, and status. He employed labor-saving technology for efficiency and maximized light and heat for optimal comfort.

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