backyard1 blades-thumb2 blades3 blades4 flowers5 footer6 fort_selden_wagon7 masthead8 masthead19
slider by v9.0

. icon icon icon iconWe'd love for you to share our stories.

American Roads and Global Highways has so many great articles you may want to search it for your favorite places or new exciting destinations.
search engine by freefind


 Cover of Tenant from Hell
The Tenant from Hell
Book 1 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Casey Clark, property manager, is just trying to evict a bad tenant. Instead she is over her head in murder and mayhem

 Cover of Double Duplicity
Double Duplicity
Book 2 in the Realtor Mystery Series
Trouble  follows Casey like a raging fire.

cover of Missing
Missing-- Gone but not Forgotten

Based on the unsolved abduction of a little girl in a rural  Florida Community.

coverof Under a Bloody Flag

Under a Bloody Flag

Kansas and Missouri were a "no man's land" in the days before the War between the States.

cover of under a black flag

Under a Black Flag
Kansas and Missouri heated to the boiling point during the War between the States. 

cover of For want of a ship
For Want of a Ship
John Roy came to New Orleans looking  for peace instead he found war.

cover of last step
Last Step
Last Step will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you gasping in surprise at the ending

cover of kudzu
Kudzu shows you a different part of the South, past and present. Mystery with a touch of romance and a smidgen of paranormal.

cover of Wild about florida south
Wild about Florida: South FL
The Everglades swarm with wildlife from birds,  to mammals, to reptiles.

cover of Wild about florida central
Wild about Florida: Central FL
Central Florida has the ocean and gulf beaches much like other parts of Florida but in many other ways it is distinct and unique. 

cover of Wild about florida north
Wild About Florida: North FL
Come explore caves, hills, whitewater falls and lots of other fun things you didn't expect to find in Florida.

cover of georgia's ghostly getaways
Georgia's Ghostly Getaways 

Who is not fascinated by mysterious things that go bump in the night? Are there some places where departed souls still linger?

cover of hosts
Hosts With Ghosts
The South has long been famous for its Southern Hospitality. Hotels throughout Dixie vie with one another to offer their guests more service and more amenities. Many have guests that never depart.

cover of finding florida's phantoms
Finding Florida's Phantoms
Florida! The land of sunshine and wide-open beaches. But even the Sunshine State has its dark secrets. Places where centuries old spirits remain tied to earth. Beneath the facade of fun and make believe lurks the real Florida.

cover of color st augustine coloring book
Color Saint Augustine
This is a way to virtually visit Saint Augustine. It's a coloring book for grown ups (but kids will love it too.)  with an actual photo of the attractions in Saint Augustine. The opposite page is the same photo converted into a black and white line image for you to to color. It's 64 pages with 30 photos and 30 pages for you to color. On each photo and each color page there is a little about the story of the image . 

Monticello and Thomas Jefferson

Story by Tom Straka
Photographs by Pat Straka

thomas Jefferson in front of Montecello

Most readers will surely recognize the person and home in the title photograph. Thomas Jefferson standing in front of one of America’s most famous homes. The home in the photograph, Monticello,  is real and Thomas Jefferson is interpreter Bill Barker. "Jefferson" spoke to us near the front of Monticello, in a small group of about a dozen, first giving us background, then allowing the group to ask questions. The presentation was at the end of a full tour of Monticello. The tour, the subject of this article, was outstanding and "Jefferson" was a fantastic way to end the tour. We expected the home to be the highlight of the day; instead, it was Jefferson, "himself" who was the true highlight. Think about it, spending time in small museum, then a full tour of the house, and ending with a conversation with "the man himself."     

Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson for most of his life. His grave is near the home and his epitaph (written by him) notes that he was "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, & Father of the University of Virginia," and includes "not a word more," by his own direction. The word more would have included third President of the United States and first Secretary of State. He also served as Minister to France. Monticello is near Charlottesville, Virginia and the intersection of two major highways, Interstate 64 and U.S. Highway 29.

Monticello from the front; notice the distinctive dome on the top.
Portrait of Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson portrait from the Entrance Hall. This gives you a chance to compare the portrait to the interpreter in the lead photograph

Thomas Jefferson, The Man

Jefferson was well-educated, a talented inventor, accomplished writer, able businessman, and a skillful architect. His influence on America was profound in many ways, so architecture is often overlooked, and Monticello highlights that ability, in a very tangible way. As Minister to France, he had the opportunity to visit European sites of classical and neo-classical architecture, something he had only seen in books. He admired "the beautiful monuments of Greece, Rome Palmyra, and Balbec," including sites like the Parthenon in Athens, the Pantheon and Temple of Vesta in Rome, the Hotel Salm in Paris, and Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotunda in Vicenza. All are architectural styles present in Monticello. It was his time in Europe that served as the stimulus for constant remodeling; while building began in 1768, it did not end until 1809. Jefferson would develop as an architect. Later he designed the Virginia state capitol and the main buildings of the University of Virginia. Nearby, the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville is a fascinating extension of a visit to Monticello, with plenty of additional background on Jefferson.

Monticello, The History

President Franklin Roosevelt visited Monticello in 1936 in order to "renew my homage to the sage of Monticello." Roosevelt spoke there and put Monticello in perspective: "More than any historic home in America, Monticello appeals to me as an expression of the personality of its builder. In the design, not of the whole alone, but of every room, of every part of every room, in the very furnishings which Jefferson devised on his own drawing board and made in his own workshop, there speaks ready capacity for detail and, above all, creative genius."

Our trip to Monticello included just the home and the immediate grounds, taking the better part of a day. There are parts of the plantation that will be a future article as we travel up and down  U.S. 29. One is an immense garden designed and nurtured by Jefferson, a fervid horticulturist. There are fruit gardens, vegetable gardens, and flower gardens. He was fond of trees and there is a grove of ornamentals where guests could see his "pet trees." Jefferson even kept a "Garden Book," of observations on the plants. He experimented on varieties of fruits and vegetables, using a wide range of cultivation techniques. Jefferson was fond of European wines and grew a wide variety of grapes at Monticello, making him one of nation’s first viticulturists.

Monticello's Enslaved People

Slavery at Monticello is out in the open and there is a "From Slavery to Freedom" tour available. Monticello was a working plantation and it was powered by over 400 enslaved people over Jefferson’s lifetime. Rebuilt slave quarters are part of the tour.

Jefferson’s gravesite is on the grounds. The shops at Monticello offer food and shopping opportunities. The various themes at Monticello are divided into specific tours. Our tour was the "Behind-the Scenes Day Pass," which covers all three floors of Monticello, including the iconic Dome Room. Note that the self-guided tour includes only the first floor. Jefferson’s bed chamber and library are on the first floor, with the most interesting rooms, with the exception of the third floor dome room. Monticello has 43 rooms in total. The first design had 14 rooms, showing how much additional work Jefferson did to redesign the building over time.  

Monticello, The Home

There is a visitor center and a small museum with many historical objects from Jefferson’s life. There are maps, diagrams, models, and objects to give perspective on the tour that will follow

Museum entrance
The museum at Monticello, at the visitor center, provides background prior to the tours.
Jefferson's deck
The museum contains personal items of Jefferson. This tall desk, made of mahogany and yellow pine
(1770-1785), was probably used by Jefferson as a stand-up reading desk,
with the top lowered to produce some of his earliest architectural drawings.    
scale model of Monticello
Scale model of Monticello, from the museum.


The Entrance Hall is where guests entered when arriving at Monticello. The room highlighted Jefferson’s wide-ranging interests and dedication to learning about the world around him. The room is full of artifacts of American natural history, western civilization, and American Indian culture. Should guests have to wait for the former President, there was plenty to arouse their curiosity.

Native American artifacts numbered at least forty, including pipes, clothing, domestic objects, and a Mandan buffalo robe depicting a battle scene. Jefferson’s acquisition of important Native American objects was central to the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He showcased Native American artifacts, along with natural history specimens, sent by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. He referred to the Entrance Hall as "Indian Hall."

native american artifacts at Monticello museum
Collection of Native American artifacts in "Indian Hall."
buffalo robe hanging over door
Mandan buffalo Robe in Entrance Hall

The first floor is where Thomas Jefferson spent most of his time in Monticello. It had the three key rooms: library, bed chamber (where Jefferson kept his most personal possessions), and dining room. Also on the first floor were the entrance hall, south square room, greenhouse (piazza which held Jefferson’s work bench, plus where he grew plants), cabinet, parlor tea room, and Madison room (named for James and Dolly Madison who often used it as a guest room—Madison’s Montpelier is only 30 miles away).

Monticello library
The library, reorganized after Jefferson sold his vast personal collection
of books, maps, and pamphlets to Congress in 1815.
cabini room at Monticello
The Cabinet, where Jefferson answered thousands of letters,
recorded the weather, and managed his plantation.
Jefferson;s bed
Bed Chamber, Jefferson’s most private space. Notice the Cabinet just across the bed, situated for efficiency.
portion of Jefferson;s bedroom
Corner of the bed chamber
tea room at monticello
A corner of the Tea Room, a place for overflow seating during meals,
as well as a reading and writing room for the Jefferson family. 

The second floor rooms were primarily guest rooms and family bedrooms.  They include Aunt Marks’s Room, Martha Randolph’s Room, Granddaughters’ Room, and the Nursery. The second floor’s furnishings centered on the beds. Aunt Marks was the youngest of Jefferson’s sisters. Following her husband’s death in 1811, she came to live at Monticello. Martha Randolph was Jefferson’s oldest daughter. Following Jefferson’s retirement, she and her husband returned to Monticello. She took on the responsibility of managing the plantation.    

bedroom at monticello
Aunt Marks’s Room
bedroom at monticello
A fairly standard feature of the second floor is a cozy bed built into the wall.

The third floor is occupied by the boy’s room, the dome room, and the cuddy. The boy’s room was also called the Grandson’s Room and it has two alcoves for beds. The dome room, of course was special, mainly for its uniqueness. It sometimes served as a bedroom, playroom for grandchildren, and as a storeroom. The Cuddy was nicknamed by the granddaughters. They set it up as a sitting room.    


winbdow in dome at monticello
The Dome Room, with window and door.
top of dome room
The Dome Room, looking up.
looking out dome windlw to Blue Ridge Mountains
Window in Dome Room; the views are fantastic, especially facing the Blue Ridge Mountains.
play room at monticello
The Cuddy; perfect place for granddaughters to play. 

There is much more to see on the grounds and the surrounding buildings. Historical artifacts are located throughout the property. For example, the phaeton reproduction below was behind the house.


a carriage called a phaeton from the early 1800s
A phaeton, which was the sports car of the day. It was very fast. Jefferson designed two for his own use.  

We only scratched the surface of Monticello. It is one of those places you need to spend several days. We had time for a quick look at the gardens and decided they deserved another trip. They were simply too expansive and too interesting. The same can be said for the house. Monticello is well worth a visit, just be sure give yourself plenty of time.   

More about Monticello:

Author/Photographer. Tom Straka is an emeritus professor of forestry at Clemson University. He has an interest in history, forestry and natural resources, natural history, and the American West. Pat Straka is a consulting forester and the photographer on most of their travel articles. They reside in South Carolina, but have also lived in Mississippi and Virginia. 



© 2022 American Roads and Global Highways                                                                                              Public Disclosure-- Please Read                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

The FTC has a law requiring web sites to let their readers know if any of the stories are  "sponsored" or compensated. We also are to let readers know if any of our links are ads. Most are not. They are just a way to direct you  to more information about the article where the link is placed. We have several ads on our pages.  They are clearly marked as ads. I think readers are smart enough to know an ad when they see one but to obey the letter of the law, I am putting this statement here to make sure everyone understands. American Roads and Global Highways may contain affiliate links or ads. Further, as their bios show, most of the feature writers are professional travel writers. As such we are frequently invited on press trips, also called fam trips. On these trips most of our lodging, dining, admissions fees and often plane fare are covered by the city or firm hosting the trip. It is an opportunity to visit places we might not otherwise be able to visit. However, no one tells us what to write about those places. All opinions are 100% those of the author of that feature column.  .  

Privacy Policy/ ArchivesContributors / Subscribe to American Roads Books by Kathleen Walls / ContactSponsor or Advertise/ American Roads & Global Highways Home Page