Sharing History: Restoring an American Icon

The story of remarkable careers, passionate dedication, economic challenges, and innovative approaches that have made Monticello one of the most enduring places in the American imagination.

Stewarding an Icon

1826 - Thomas Jefferson's death

Uriah P. Levy purchased the Monticello house and adjoining 218 acres. He hired Joel Wheeler as overseer to supervise a restoration of both house and garden.

Saving Monticello

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation purchases Monticello from Jefferson Monroe Levy and begins its first preservation work, repairing roof framing and installing a new sheet metal roof.

The Garden Club of Virginia appoints a committee to consult with Fiske Kimball on the restoration of the grounds.

The "slave quarters" under the South Terrace, the "barn" (Stone Stable), and ice house are "restored."

Some joists supporting the main floor are replaced.

Restoration of the North Wing and North Terrace begins. The section from the Ice House to the Pavilion is re-created as a stable based on archaeological evidence and the stable at Bremo. A version of Jefferson’s famous zig-zag "terras" roof structure is used for the terraces. Milton Grigg & Floyd Johnson are the architects working closely with Fiske Kimball, chairman of the restoration committee.

The South Wing and South Terrace are restored. Included are the Kitchen, Cook’s Room, Smokehouse, two “servants” rooms, the Dairy, and the roof of the South Privy.

Monticello is closed from November 15, 1953 until February 27, 1954 for structural repairs and the installation of a central heating and air-conditioning system, a project which involves taking up the floor boards of the second floor and replacing the wooden joists with steel before relaying the original floors.

The Dome and "Terras" roof (the zig-zag roof enclosed by a Chinese railing) are restored. The project also includes the removal of the Levy-period dormers and the installation of skylights.

Archaeological investigations take place on Mulberry Row and along the site of the vegetable garden retaining wall.

An automatic sprinkler system is installed in the house at all levels except the main floor.

As part of a larger landscape restoration project, a road survey is expanded to include all original Jefferson-era roads, with an eye to restoring original roadways of all four original mountain "roundabouts."

Frank Welsh begins the first comprehensive paint and color analysis of Monticello, to be followed by Susan Buck in later years.

Mulberry Row's roadway and the First Roundabout are restored. The Levy-period stair and bathroom features above Jefferson's Bed Chamber are removed.

The Northeast Portico columns and the "rusticated" entrance wall are restored to the original sand-painted finish. Twenty-two coats of paint are removed from the columns. Samples of all layering are left in place.

The Garden Pavilion and Vegetable Garden retaining wall reconstruction is completed.

The firm Mesick Cohen Waite prepares a Historic Structure Report (HSR) on the main house, wings, Textile Workshop, and the Mulberry Row Stable.

A comprehensive roof restoration takes place following completion of the Historic Structures Report. Before restoration, structural repairs are made to the deteriorated joist and rafter ends. Tinned-stainless steel shingles are substituted for the tinned-iron shingles that covered the dome and main roof in the 1820s.

The Entrance Hall floor is painted "grass green." The color is based on physical evidence and a Jefferson letter from 1805 in which he notes Gilbert Stuart’s color suggestion.

The reconstruction of the Venetian Porches is complete.

The roofs of the North and South Pavilion are restored.

A multi-year project to re-grain the main house interior doors to look like mahogany (as they would have been in the 1820s) is completed.

The 1809 Kitchen, first restored in 1941, undergoes further changes based on new evidence.

Interior storm windows are installed to prevent damage from condensation, and restoration of the North Cellar Passage retaining walls begins to correct considerable bowing of the eighteen-inch thick walls.

The Dining Room walls are painted to match the chrome yellow finish dating from about 1815.

Restoration of the West Portico columns is completed, removing 19 layers of white paint to reveal the original unpainted render, applied in 1823.

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The Mountaintop Project is underway: a multi-year effort to restore Monticello as Jefferson knew it, and to tell the stories of the people—enslaved and free—who lived and worked on the 5,000-acre plantation. It involved restoring or reconstructing many structures on the mountaintop, among them the Storehouse for Iron and the Hemings Cabin along Mulberry Row.

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The Mountaintop Project includes the restoration of the interiors of Monticello's upper floors, including the Nursery.

As part of the Mountaintop Project the South Wing is restored, including an exhibit dedicated to the Life of Sally Hemings.

Explore Exhibits

A comprehensive project to restore the composition ornament of Monticello's main floor interiors is underway, beginning with the Bed Chamber and Entrance Hall chimney piece friezes.

Fireplace Frieze Restoration

The East Portico Compass Rose is restored.

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The ruins of Thomas Jefferson's mill at Shadwell are stabilized, following multiple instances of flood damage over two centuries.

More about Monticello's Mills