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Pantops, located in Albemarle County, Virginia, was owned by the Jefferson family.1  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 1746.2 Thomas Jefferson inherited the property, which bordered the Jefferson family’s Shadwell property, following his father’s death in 1757.3 In 1777, Thomas Jefferson purchased additional adjoining land that had been part of the original 1734 land grant.4

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.5 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.6 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.7 In 1817, Eppes sold the property for $10,000 to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s grandson by his other daughter.8 In 1825, the property was sold to James Leitch, who built the first house there.9

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).10

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.11

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.12

Further Sources

  • 1. The origin and meaning of the name "Pantops" is unclear.  The name first appears in Thomas Jefferson's 1794 Land Roll as "Pant-ops."  According to classicists consulted by Monticello staff, the name may derive from the Greek "pant" meaning "everything" and "ops" meaning "to see" - perhaps denoting a place which can be seen from everywhere, or a place from which one can see everything.  See Thomas Jefferson, 1794 Land Roll, Massachusetts Historical Society; researcher notes, Pantops Information File, Jefferson Library.
  • 2. Albemarle County Deed Book, 1:354, 1:484; Albemarle County Will Book, 2:32.
  • 3. Will Book, No. 2, Albemarle County, pp. 32-34, 41-47. Transcription available online at Jefferson Quotes and Family Letters.
  • 4. Albemarle County Deed Book, 7:99.
  • 5. 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).
  • 6. See Jefferson to Francis Eppes, May 1, 1824, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Huntington Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 7. See Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, June 3-5, 1812, in PTJ:RS, 5:102. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  • 8. Albemarle County Deed Book, 20:411, 23:253-54.
  • 9. Albemarle County Deed Book, 26:93.
  • 10. John Hammond Moore, Albemarle, Jefferson's County, 1727-1976 (Charlottesville: Published for the Albemarle County Historical Society by the University Press of Virginia, 1976), 259, 329, 382.
  • 11. Roy Wheeler, Historic Virginia (Charlottesville: R. Wheeler, 1947), 214-15.
  • 12. Websites are available for the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech and the Kluge-Ruhe Art Museum.
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