Most exterior shutters today are eye-pleasing accents, decorative but not functional. But for Thomas Jefferson, shutters provided shade from what he described as "the constant, beaming, almost vertical sun of Virginia" while permitting airflow from summer breezes. They also protected the expensive window glass from storms and swung open, Jefferson’s words, "on hinges as in the winter we want both the light & the warmth of the sun."

Jefferson was characteristically precise in designing Monticello’s shutters. In 1804, while president, Jefferson contracted with Washington joiner Peter Lenox for the fine woodworking the job required. The project called for the blinds' slats to be "laths moving on 2. pivots" on the lower window sections while the upper shutters were fixed. Meanwhile, at Monticello, blacksmith William Stewart made the hinges and other hardware for hanging the blinds.

 

Jefferson's original shutters were replaced in the early 20th century. In 2013 the Thomas Jefferson Foundation opted to install new shutters based on Jefferson's original designs. Researching Jefferson's records and examining other examples led to measured drawings by Monticello's then-architectural historian Gardiner Hallock (who serves today as Vice President for Architecture, Collections, and Facilities). Gaston & Wyatt then fabricated prototype blinds out of heart pine, the same wood used in the originals. Once the design was finalized, Gaston & Wyatt custom-crafted authentic blinds for nearly all Monticello's first-floor windows.


 


This blog post was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.