Pantops, located in Albemarle County, Virginia, was owned by the Jefferson family. The land was originally part of a land grant in 1734 divided among Joseph Smith, Edwin Hickman, Thomas Graves, and Jonathan Clark. Peter Jefferson purchased portions of the land from Smith and his descendants in stages, beginning in 1746.1 Thomas Jefferson inherited the property, which bordered the Jefferson family’s Shadwell property, following his father’s death in 1756.2 In 1777, Thomas Jefferson purchased additional adjoining land that had been part of the original 1734 land grant.3
In 1797, Jefferson gave the Pantops property to his younger daughter, Maria, as her dowry for her wedding to John Wayles Eppes. It was Jefferson’s intent that Maria and her husband would settle permanently at Pantops, and it was with this in mind that he paid to have a location for the house leveled out.4 In 1804, however, Maria died and plans to build at Pantops halted.
Upon Maria's death, the property passed to her son, Francis Eppes, and was entrusted to his father until he came of age.5 In 1812, John Eppes offered Pantops for sale and Jefferson, upset at the prospect of land within view of Monticello being sold out of the family, offered to buy the property back.6 In 1817, Eppes sold the property for $10,000 to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson by his other daughter.7 In 1825, the property was sold to James Leitch, who built the first house there.8
From 1879-1903, the Pantops Academy, a boys’ school, was operated in the main house on the portion of the property known as Lower Pantops (the property was divided in 1874).9
In 1929, after passing through several owners, the main house burned and in 1938 a new house was built for the owner at the time, James Cheek. The Cheek house, which remains on the property, was designed by architect B. Charles Baker, and is thought to be located on the site originally leveled by Jefferson.10
Today, the property is owned by the University of Virginia and houses the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech as well as the Kluge-Ruhe Art Museum.11
4. See Marriage Settlement for John Wayles Eppes, October 12, 1797, in PTJ, 29:547-48 (transcription available at Founders Online); Marriage Settlement for Mary Jefferson, October 12, 1797, in PTJ, 29:549-51 (transcription available at Founders Online).