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Thomas Jefferson had four different residences during his five-year stay in Paris.
1784 August 6-10: Thomas Jefferson, his daughter Martha, and his enslaved servant, James Hemings, arrived in Paris and stayed at the Hôtel d’Orléans on the Rue de Richelieu adjoining the Palais Royal.1
1784 August 10-October 17: Jefferson, his daughter, and James Hemings moved to a different Hôtel d’Orléans on the Left Bank on the Rue des Petits-Augustins (present-day Rue Bonaparte).2
1784 October 17-1785 October 17: On October 17, 1784, Jefferson moved to an unfurnished three-story house, the Hôtel Landron, in the Cul-de-sac Taitbout (present-day Rue du Helder, Ninth Arrondissement). Jefferson referred to it as the “Hôtel Tetebout.”3 It was located on the Right Bank and was owned by M. Guireaud de Talairac. The annual rent was 4,000 livres, to be paid in quarterly installments. The house, according to the lease, had “three main parts …, a courtyard, and two gardens.”4 The cost to equip the house with furniture, carpets, linens, blankets, clocks, silver, and works of art purchased at auction exceeded Jefferson's salary for the year.5 He had bookshelves built, rented a pianoforte, and bought music and a music stand.6 Before long Jefferson decided the house was inconvenient and wasn’t worthy of the U.S. legation. In October 1785, he moved to the Hôtel de Langeac.
1785 October 17-1789 September 26: Jefferson moved to the Hôtel de Langeac at the corner of the Rue de Berri and the Champs-Élysées on October 17, 1785. He considered this house more worthy of his position. Before moving, he wrote to Abigail Adams in early September 1785: “I have at length procured a house in a situation much more pleasing to me than my present. It is at the grille des champs Elysees, but within the city. It suits me in every circumstance but the price, being dearer than the one I am now in. It has a clever garden to it.”7 The house was designed by the popular architect Jean-F. T. Chalgrin for the Marquise de Langeac. Drawings survive at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. Several of Chalgrin’s buildings still exist in Paris today. The Hôtel de Langeac had two stories and twenty-four rooms – two were oval-shaped – and it had “modern plumbing in the form of water-closets.”8 There was also a basement. On the lot was an English garden and stables. The rent was 7,500 livres a year.9
Jefferson made some structural changes to the house while living there. “The only surviving plan of the second floor is by Jefferson, who probably drew it when one of the bedrooms was divided into two smaller ones for Patsy and Polly.”10 Jefferson’s packing list gives a detailed picture of the furnishings of the house. There was abundant seating, including forty-eight chairs. The dining room seated twenty. Seven mirrors hung on the walls of the Hôtel de Langeac, and the ceiling of the oval salon was decorated with a painting of the rising sun by the artist Jean-Simon Berthélemy.11
Jefferson was host to many well-known visitors at the Hôtel de Langeac. John Trumbull, the American painter of historical scenes, lived with Jefferson during his time in Paris. He sketched portraits of French officers for his painting, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, and worked on his masterpiece, The Declaration of Independence, while living there. The architect Charles Bulfinch of Boston was also a guest. The Hôtel de Langeac was the setting for official as well as private life. “One evening in August 1789, the hospitable American Minister found himself the unexpected host to an informal gathering of members of the National Assembly’s Committee on the new Constitution. The question of the veto power of the King had produced a deadlock in the Assembly. In search of a quiet retreat where the difficulties could be ironed out, Lafayette invited himself and seven of his friends to dinner at the Hôtel de Langeac.”12
The Hôtel de Langeac was demolished in 1842. There is a memorial plaque, placed there in 1919 by the alumni of the University of Virginia, marking the place where the house stood.
- Betty Goss, 1/09
- Rice, Howard C. L'Hôtel de Langeac, Jefferson's Paris Residence: Résidence de Jefferson à Paris, 1785-1789. Paris: Henri Lefebvre; Monticello, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1947 [i.e. 1948].
- Rice, Howard C. Thomas Jefferson's Paris. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976.
- 1. Howard C. Rice, Thomas Jefferson's Paris (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1976), 13.
- 2. Ibid., 61.
- 3. Ibid., 39.
- 4. Ibid., 38. See Lease of House in the Cul-de-sac Taitbout, October 16, 1784, in PTJ, 7:442-43. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 5. MB, 1:576.
- 6. Rice, Jefferson's Paris, 39.
- 7. Jefferson to Adams, September 4, 1785, in PTJ, 8:473. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 8. Howard C. Rice, L'Hôtel de Langeac: Jefferson's Paris Residence (Paris: H. Lefebvre, 1947), 15.
- 9. Rice, Jefferson's Paris, 51.
- 10. William Howard Adams, The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1997), 52. This drawing is at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris.
- 11. Stein, Worlds, 23.
- 12. Rice, L'Hôtel de Langeac, 17.