Monticello may be one of the most iconic buildings in the United States – it’s even on the back of a coin. Thomas Jefferson famously designed and built his home atop a hill in Virginia (Monticello means “little mountain” in Italian).
Monticello is so famous and popular, it is debatable whether it should be labeled as a “Nerd Trip,” however, as the home of our third president, Monticello firmly falls under the original concept of Nerd Trips.
Unlike some presidential sites we’ve visited, you may not be able to just drop in on the Jeffersons. There are a lot of visitors, so like many amusement parks, there are timed tours, shuttle buses and roped off areas to keep everyone moving. We purchased tickets a few weeks in advance.
Monticello’s website says you need to arrive at the Visitors Center 30 minutes before your tour time. We took a quick look around before boarding a bus to take us to the house. As I mentioned, Monticello is atop a hill. And it’s a big hill (maybe technically it’s a mountain). We took the bus up and walked down.
Our guide asked us to think about the slaves who had to contend with that hill every day as they maintained the house, bringing up water, food, etc. And imagine the labor involved during the home’s construction.
Get this, Monticello’s famous facade with the grand lawn is really the back of the house. I was actually surprised at how shady it was on the front side. While waiting in line for our tour, we saw some really interesting trees with cool “architecture,” which seemed to be a theme on our Ultimate Nerd Trip (see the previous post about the Monroe Oak).
We had about 20 people on our tour on a freakishly hot Sunday in April (seriously, it was well above 90).
Before you even enter the house, you begin to hear about Jefferson’s innovative ideas such as the weathervane (with an indoor compass rose, so you don’t have to go outside to check the wind direction) and the Great Clock, which has a face both inside and outside the house, hour-striking gong and a calendar feature. Click on the link above to read why Jefferson chose to leave off the minute hand on one of the faces and his solution when he realized that the clock weights needed to be longer than the height of his entrance hall.
It may make you question the haphazard choices in your own home!