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Cost of Monticello

Thus far, no one has managed to calculate the cost of Monticello with any degree of accuracy. Thomas Jefferson himself recorded the following dollar figures:

  • In 1800, Jefferson estimated the value of the house and outbuildings for insurance purposes at $6300.1
  • In his accounting of building costs for the period from March 4, 1801, to March 4, 1802, (including workmen's salaries, building materials, and other miscellaneous items) Jefferson noted a total of $2076.29.2 He calculated his building costs for the following 12-month period to be $3587.92.3

Taking the 12-month figure of $3587.92, just as an example, and multiplying that figure by the number of years needed to complete Monticello (28), the total cost would be $100,461.76. However, there are many variables unaccounted for in this calculation; thus, that total likely represents only a fraction of the true cost of constructing Monticello. For example, some of the building materials were purchased, and some were made by hand at Monticello; some materials and labor were not paid for with cash but were bartered; and the cost of food, clothing, and housing for enslaved workers is not factored into Jefferson's yearly estimates. A thorough examination of Jefferson's memorandum books might yield a more accurate estimate than the one above, but could probably never be considered a definitive figure.

Translating such a figure into today's money adds another layer of complication. There is no easy way to make this translation, although there are sources that can serve as a guide in making the attempt. For additional information, consult the Further Sources listed below.

Further Sources


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