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Thomas Jefferson's "Little Mountain"

Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, a Founding Father and the third president of the United States, who began designing Monticello after inheriting land from his father at age 14. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres with Jefferson using the labor of African slaves for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets. Due to its architectural and historic significance, the property has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

While staying at the Powhatan State Park we traveled about an hour northwest to visit this National Historical Landmark on Thursday, May 18. We purchased tickets for the highlight tour which included a 45 minute guided tour of the interior of Jefferson's home and a separate guided tour of the gardens. Prior to our tour we were lucky enough to catch a gentleman portraying President Jefferson, circa 1823 in conversation with some of the visitors. It was a fascinating experience.

We learned that Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles and reworked the design for 40 years, through much of his presidency to include design elements popular in late 18th-century Europe and integrating numerous ideas of his own. Situated on the summit of an 850 ft high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap, the name Monticello derives from Italian meaning "little mountain". Along a prominent lane adjacent to the house called Mulberry Row, the plantation came to include numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, e.g., a nailery, quarters for slaves who worked in the home, gardens for flowers, produce, and Jefferson's experiments in plant breeding—along with tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for slaves who worked in the fields were located farther from the mansion.

Thomas Jefferson was accomplished in many areas but his lavish lifestyle left him in tremendous debt at the end of his life. After Jefferson's death, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph, sold Monticello for $7,500. She sold the entire property except for the small family graveyard which still belongs to the family. In 1834, it was bought by Uriah P. Levy, a commodore in the U.S. Navy for $2,500, who admired Jefferson and spent his own money to preserve the property. His nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy took over the property in 1879; he also invested considerable money to restore and preserve it. In 1923, Monroe Levy sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) for $500,000, which operates it as a house museum and educational institution to this day.

After a wonderful day-long sightseeing adventure we returned to Powhatan State Park for the night. Most sites are shady and long enough for most rigs. We really enjoyed our campsite #7. I think our pull-through site must have been over 100 feet long. Check the website for more information. Silly me, I neglected to take any photos while here. Electric and water only utilities were near the rear of our site. The dump station has 4 drains and is easy to maneuver. Nice hosts, park staff and fellow campers. We were in no rush leaving this park because check out time was 1 PM! This RV campground is a definite do-over when in the area.

Friday, May 19 we departed at noon and drove to Walmart in Waynesboro, VA for supplies and a lunch break before driving the remainder of our route to the Peaceful Valley Assembly of God Church in Maxwelton, West Virginia. This leg took the entire afternoon and we didn't arrive until 4:45 PM. We found the location on our Harvest Host membership link. The church provides a large, level parking site for boon docking over night and we provide them a small donation for the convenience.

Tomorrow we drive about an hour and a half to Camp Creek State Park, WV for two nights. We are hoping to see Matthew and Ana Schaetzle, friends from Kona, Hawaii, who now live in Bluefield, WV.


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