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Monticello Dining Room
Virtual tours of this room
Dimensions: 18' 6" × 18' 0"; ceiling 17' 9"
Color: Originally unpainted plaster, then "chrome yellow," then wall-papered, then blue in the post-Jefferson era. Currently the walls are a "chrome yellow" recreated following paint analysis studies.1
Purpose of Room: Dining area
Architectural features: Two sets of window sashes insulate room; double pocket doors on rollers separate the Dining Room from the western-most, and coldest, Tea Room; the Dining Room features one of Monticello's thirteen skylights; wine dumbwaiter on either side of fireplace brought wine up from cellar below; revolving serving door with shelves enabled slaves to move dishes in and out of the room more easily and with fewer intrusions to diners; Wedgwood decoration on fireplace
Objects on Display in This Room
- Bank of Pennsylvania (Drawing)
- Coalbrookdale Bridge (Engraving)
- Cut Jelly Glasses
- Date Obolum Belisario (Engraving)
- Dining Table
- Jefferson Cups
- Holy Family (Painting)
- Marqués Francisco de Moncada (Engraving)
- Mount Vernon (Engraving)
- Shield Back Side Chair
- Short Tumbler
- Slab Table
- Short Plain Jelly Glasses
- Tall Plain Jelly Glasses
- Tall Tumbler
- Tilt-Top Tripod Table
- Views of Niagara Falls (Engraving)
Primary Source References
1802 September 18. (Mrs. William Thornton). "We went thro' a large unfinished hall, loose plank forming the floor, lighted by one dull lantern, into a large room with a small bow and separated by an arch, where the company were seated at tea — no light being in the large part of the room & part of the family being seated there, the appearance was irregular & unpleasant."2
1812. (Eva Miller Nourse). "... a French book was always kept on the mantle-piece in the dining room and, while waiting for the servants to set the table they would read together."3
1814. (Francis Calley Gray). "On looking round the room in which we sat the first thing which attracted our attention was the state of the chairs. They had leather bottoms stuffed with hair, but the bottoms were completely worn through and the hair sticking out in all directions; on the mantle-piece which was large and of marble were many books of all kinds, Livy, Orosius, Edinburg Review, 1 vol. of Edgeworth's Moral Tales, etc., etc. There were many miserable prints and some fine pictures hung round the room, among them two plans for the completion of the Capitol at Washington, one of them very elegant. A harpsichord stood in one corner of the room. There were four double windows from the wall to the floor of fine large glass and a recess in one side of the apartment."4
1820 December 1. (Cornelia Jefferson Randolph to Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist). "I had all our plants moved into the dining room before I left home and yours along with them. I hope they may be able to bear this bitter cold weather."5
1826. (Elizabeth Lindsay Gordon). "She said she had observed that there was always a volume of some sort on the mantle-shelf of the dining-room at Monticello, from which, whenever she entered the room at meal times, she almost always found him reading, while he stood near the fire-place, waiting for family and guests to assemble."6
1827 July 29. (Mary Jefferson Randolph to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "[O]ne plan that Virginia suggested ... live entirely on the first floor which might be made to accomodate us but would not admit of guests ... we might use the dining room as a bedroom. & breakfast and dine in the hall ...."7
- Stein, Susan R. The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993.
- Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Monticello Explorer. Dining Room.
- 1. For further details on the restoration of "chrome yellow," see Paint and Wall Coverings.
- 2. Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton, Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton Papers, 1793-1861, Library of Congress.
- 3. Eva Miller Nourse, The Millar-du Bois Family: Its History and Genealogy ([n.p.]: 1928), 97-98.
- 4. Francis Calley Gray, Thomas Jefferson in 1814, Being an Account of a Visit to Monticello, Virginia (Boston: The Club of Odd Volumes, 1924), 68.
- 5. Nicholas Philip Trist Papers, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Library.
- 6. Armistead C. Gordon, William Fitzhugh Gordon, A Virginian of the Old School: His Life, Times and Contemporaries (1787-1858) (New York: Neale Publishing Co., 1909) 58.
- 7. Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge Correspondence, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library. Transcription available at Jefferson Quotes and Family Letters.
- 8. Nicholas Philip Trist Papers, Special Collections, University of North Carolina Library.