Thomas Jefferson | 3rd President, 1801-1809

Birthplace, Shadwell, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell plantation in western Virginia. His father, Peter Jefferson, a surveyor, planter and office-holder, began acquiring land in this frontier region in the mid-1730s and had purchased the Shadwell tract by 1741. Peter Jefferson built a house soon after, and the Shadwell plantation became a thriving agricultural estate. Thomas Jefferson spent much of his early life at Shadwell. After the house burned to the ground in 1770, he moved to Monticello, where he had begun constructing a house. His first childhood memory, at age three, was of the fifty-mile horseback ride he took with his father's slave into the Virginia wilderness. This journey was undertaken with his family as they moved to a remote plantation that Jefferson's father was to manage, acting as executor of a friend's estate. Along with his parents and three siblings (three other sisters and one brother were later born to the family), Jefferson spent the next six years roaming the woods and studying his books.

Boyhood Home, Tuckahoe, Richmond, Virginia
Considered by architectural historians to be the finest existing early 18th century plantation in America, Tuckahoe stands today in its virtually undisturbed setting on a bluff overlooking the James River valley. University of Virginia Professor Frederick Nicholas wrote in his foreword of the book Tuckahoe Plantation, "Not only is the house priceless because of its completeness, but it contains some of the most important architectural ideas of the Georgian Period. Probably unique in American architecture are the rare outbuildings, including paired structures which were the office and the schoolhouse where Thomas Jefferson went to class." The country scenes for the Williamsburg orientation movie, "The Story of a Patriot" were taken at Tuckahoe.

The only remaining original Randolph home, it contains outstanding interior paneling and embellishments, and is appropriately and beautifully furnished. Perhaps the oldest framed residence on the James River west of Richmond, Tuckahoe was begun about 1715 by Thomas Randolph. The little schoolhouse, which still stands today, is where Thomas Jefferson began his childhood studies. Jefferson lived here from 1745-1752. Many famous American have visited here, as it has been home and working farm for nearly 275 years. The guests at Tuckahoe have included William Byrd of Westover, Lord Cornwallis, and George Washington. Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph was born there.

Home, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
Thomas Jefferson called Monticello his "essay in architecture." Reflecting the genius and versatility of its creator, Jefferson's Monticello is a monument to a scrupulous interest in architecture, landscaping, agriculture, and domestic comforts. The remarkable house, one of America's most famous, is filled with ingenious devices and mementos of this revered founding father. The author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, Jefferson studied buildings in ancient Rome and began his dwelling atop the "Little Mountain" where he had played as a boy, after leveling the top in 1768.

Jefferson worked on Monticello for more than 40 years, altering and enlarging it as his taste developed, reflecting the pleasure he found in "putting up and pulling down." Before 1795 the house had a Palladian-influenced tripartite form with two-level porticoes. After seeing the work of Boullée and Ledoux in France, he returned to Monticello with his head full of new ideas, above all, about its dome, and an aversion to grand staircases, which he believed took up too much room. When an extensive revision was finished in 1809, it had become a 21-room amalgam of Roman, Palladian, and French architectural ideals, a unique statement by one of history's great individuals. The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation has maintained Monticello as a place of pilgrimage for millions since 1923.

Jefferson's attention to garden design paralleled his interest in architecture. Both ornamental and vegetable gardens, as well as two orchards, a vineyard, and an 18-acre "grove," or ornamental forest, were included in his landscape plans. Jefferson's detailed records and recent archeological discoveries have made possible an accurate recreation of his gardening scheme. Since 1987, Monticello has included the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.

Home, Poplar Forest, Forest, Virginia
Poplar Forest, a retreat Jefferson designed and built, was in the Jefferson family from 1773-1828. Jefferson went to this "other home" for rest and writing. Jefferson went there in June 1781, after his term as Governor expired, and while there he was thrown from a horse and injured. During his recovery, he wrote his "Notes on Virginia."

Jefferson owned several plantations but built elaborate houses for his personal use at only two of them - Monticello and Poplar Forest. In 1806, Jefferson began the construction of his octagonal brick house at Poplar Forest, the centerpiece of his intricate villa design. The concept of a country villa was an idea as old as Roman times and was well known to Jefferson from his extensive reading of classical literature. After attempting unsuccessfully to create various retreats in his younger years, Jefferson finally achieved the construction of his own villa retreat for his retirement. His isolated Bedford County land was perfectly suited as the place to create this final masterpiece.

At Poplar Forest, Jefferson utilized many of the architectural ideas he had collected throughout his years of study and his travels abroad. The 16th century Italian architect, Andrea Palladio, greatly influenced Jefferson's plan for Poplar Forest. He utilized Palladio's rules of design and the idea of blending landscape with architecture. Jefferson also incorporated many French design ideas and conveniences he had observed in Paris, such as floor-to-ceiling windows, alcove beds, a skylight, and an indoor privy. From his earliest use of architectural handbooks, Jefferson became fascinated with octagons. Although he included them in many designs, the house at Poplar Forest is the only octagonal structure Jefferson designed that was actually constructed.

Jefferson's perfect retreat was altered after the fire of 1845. Research by the Poplar Forest restoration staff yielded a wealth of information about the original design and construction of the house. Jefferson was involved in every aspect of the building of this home and wrote numerous letters from the White House to his workers detailing his designs. This information, as well as the extensive investigation of the existing structure, has helped the restoration team determine the intricate specifics of restoring this home to its original splendor. Restoration of the exterior was completed in the summer of 1998.

Gravesite, Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia
Racked with pain from rheumatism and an enlarged prostate, Jefferson could barely move when invited to attend the celebration of the 1826 Fourth of July festivities in Washington, D.C. He and John Adams, who was also alive but too ill to attend, were to be the honored guests on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence's presentation by the revolutionary Continental Congress. Barely conscious, Jefferson lapsed into a comma and died-perhaps willfully-after hearing from his doctor the whispered words that he had lived until the Fourth. Adams died the same day. Jefferson was buried in the family graveyard at Monticello.

The Monticello Graveyard had its beginning in an agreement between two young men, Thomas Jefferson and Dabney Carr, who were school mates and friends. They agreed that they would be buried under a great oak, which stood there. Carr, who married Jefferson's sister, died in 1773. His was the first grave on the site, which Jefferson laid out as a family burying ground. Jefferson was buried there in 1826. The present monument is not the original, designed by Jefferson, but a larger one erected by the United States in 1883. Its base covers the graves of Jefferson, his Wife, his two daughters, and of Virginia Governor Thomas Mann Randolph, his son-in-law. The graveyard remains the property of Jefferson's descendants, and continues to be a family burying ground.

Memorial, Washington, DC
Situated on the South side of the Tidal Basin, in West Potomac park, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial is one of the cities most picturesque landmarks. Dedicated in 1943, on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth, this simple circular classical white marble monument is in keeping with a style much favored by the third U.S. president, architect, scholar and political thinker. At its center, a towering 19-foot bronze portrait statue (the plaster one, in position until after WWII, is in the basement, too large to be removed intact) stands on a 6-foot pedestal. Panels are inscribed with excerpts of Jefferson's writing, including one that best sums up the man: "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." The view from the steps is magnificent, especially at night when a halo of blue light crowns the structure. Cherry blossom season (March/April) bestows added beauty to the site.