Looking ahead to the Centennial – Monticello Receives $10 Million Gift for Restoration Efforts
Leslie Greene Bowman
On November 7, 1805, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis reached a large body of water. Thinking it was the Pacific Ocean, Clark wrote “Ocian in view! Oh! The Joy!”
We know now that the Lewis and Clark Expedition was almost nearly there – only 20 miles from their destination (they had just reached the estuary of the Columbia), but nonetheless the joy they experienced reaching the end of a long, ambitious, and historic journey is something rare.
Today, we can relate to that sense of elation and achievement, knowing that two major restoration projects will be much nearer to completion thanks to a meaningful and magnanimous gift.
Over the past ninety years, the Foundation has steadily expanded its mission of preservation and education — reacquiring land once owned by Jefferson and preserving his landscape and vistas, researching and installing major restoration projects, developing a robust educational program which draws international scholars and statesmen, creating a community trail system, opening the Jefferson Library, and hosting more than 28 million visitors to Monticello. In 1987 the United Nations recognized the global importance of Jefferson’s three-dimensional autobiography by designating Monticello a UNESCO World Heritage site.
And yet, there is still so much left of Monticello to be revealed to a worldwide audience.
“Monticello is one of our nation’s most important historic and cultural institutions, a critical strand of the rich tapestry that is American history," said Mr. Rubenstein. “I hope this gift furthers the understanding of and appreciation for Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and one of our most important founding fathers."
Funding will support substantial progress on restoration of the second and third floors of Monticello which were recently opened up to public tours. Currently all but one of the rooms on these floors, comprising one-third of the house, are not fully restored.
The gift will also enable Monticello to make significant progress towards the completion of Mulberry Row. When completed, Mulberry Row will bring to life the stories of the scores of people—enslaved and free—who lived and worked on Jefferson’s 5,000 acre plantation. Finally, the gift will fund the upgrade of electrical and climate-control systems that are approaching the end of their lifecycle.
This gift to Monticello is the most recent of David Rubenstein’s efforts to protect and preserve important historical and cultural treasures. In addition to owning several copies of the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Rubenstein purchased the last privately owned copy of Magna Carta, which is on permanent loan to the National Archives. Other recent gifts were made to Mount Vernon and to the Washington Monument to repair damage sustained in the 2011 earthquake.
We are deeply grateful to David Rubenstein for this generous and transformative support. Mr. Rubenstein’s gift is a significant milestone in the history of the Foundation. As we look ahead to the Foundation’s centennial in 2023, we can finally say that the goal of fully revealing Thomas Jefferson’s world at Monticello is in sight. “Oh! The Joy!”