Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau


Thursday June 6, 2013
Charlottesville, Virginia



It may be called Charlottesville but it’s really Jefferson-town.

For lots of people, 44000, Charlottesville is home and for many others it is a vacation destination.  It’s a great little town which has a lot of history.

Since it’s my hometown, I know a lot about places to see and things to do.  If you are in Virginia and want to spend a few days in an interesting place, here are my recommendations.



There are all things Jefferson. 


Charlottesville is Thomas Jefferson’s home town too and for most people despite Dave Matthews, John Grisham and Sissy Spacek, he is still its most famous citizen.  What would MR. Jefferson do is the WWJD around here.  There is also WWJT and WWJS and believe me people really do talk this way.


M west front


Make time to visit all of the Jefferson spots beginning with his home Monticello, its gorgeous gardens and historic slave area Mulberry Row.






Jefferson's gardens2 

Jefferson began the plantation and house on 5000 acres when he was 26 years old and worked on it for the next 40 years.  You can easily spend a full day or more there taking one of the house tours, a  flower garden tour, seeing the revolutionary Vegetable Garden, a 1,000-foot-long terraced hanging garden with 330  seasonal vegetables planted throughout the year and the fruit orchard where Jefferson grew over 170 varieties of fruits.  Also on the grounds is  the graveyard where he and his descendents are buried and a two mile hiking and biking trail featuring an arboretum of native trees and shrubs, and a two-acre pond.


J bedroom

On the house tour you will see an amazing number of Jefferson creations and time savers, inventions and designs.   His bedroom relies on a skylight for light.  It has an alcove bed to save space.  He used his bedroom not only for sleeping but for visiting with family members and for reading.  So the alcove bed created more floor space for those activities.  It was built into the bottom half of a mid wall and a closet was in the upper half of the wall.  Two circular holes in the wall allowed ventilation and light into the space.   Only one drawback.  Jefferson had to use a ladder to reach his closet.



Jefferson's bedroom



Jefferson's study

Thomas Jefferson spent a lot of time in his study writing letters, reading and receiving guests.  The room had a swivel desk chair, a rotating desktop and a rotating bookstand which could hold up to five books at a time.  He could move from one task to another easily and nothing was ever out of reach for this voluminous writer


President Jefferson’s Monticello is an amazing multifaceted place designed and created by a brilliant mind.  One can spend hours, return again and again, and always find something new to see and learn.



Although I could never get away from Monticello in three or four hours, if you do, for lunch there is Michie Tavern.



Michie Tavern

On the road up the mountain, a half mile from Monticello you will pass Michie Tavern ca 1784.

The tavern is a fun place for lunch.  They offer what they call a hearty midday fare buffet based on 18th century southern recipes offered by servers in period attire.





tavern dinner

The Michie Tavern “Bill of Fare” includes

Southern Fried Chicken
Marinated Baked Chicken
Hand-pulled Pork Barbecue
Black-eye Peas, Stewed Tomatoes, Mashed Potatoes with Gravy,
Hot Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Whole Baby Beets,
Biscuits and Cornbread
Assorted Southern desserts including Peach Cobbler a la mode



tavern room



From Monticello it is a short drive into Charlottesville to visit The University of Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson’s second most famous architectural creation is the University of Virginia which he founded in 1819.  Free guided tours of its lawn and the rotunda are available at the Rotunda.  There are also brochures providing tours of the Academical Village and the lovely Pavilion Gardens.  Both are located at the Rotunda’s public entrance on the lawn side under the stairs not the street side.

1856- the lawn and Rotunda.Lawn 1856


The lawn buildings were designed in a U shape with a central dome (the Rotunda).  There are 4 rows of colonnades, two on each side which alternate student rooms and larger buildings.



Click the photo to see more clearly Jefferson’s design for his Academical Village.Lawn plan


The lawn and Rotunda 2010Lawn 2010






The Rotunda, a one half scale copy of the Pantheon, was originally the library.   Judging from Monticello and the Rotunda, Jefferson clearly liked domes. 








Along each side of the lawn are 10 buildings known as Pavilions.  They are two story structures.  The faculty member lived upstairs and taught one branch of the classical curriculum downstairs. Each pavilion is unique in design and was intended to serve as an outdoor classroom for architectural study. Fifty four small student rooms are space out between the pavilions all along the two long sides facing the grassy lawn.    There are a total of 206 columns surrounding the lawn: 16 on the Rotunda, 38 on the pavilions, 152 on the covered walkways connecting the student rooms and the pavilions.  The columns vary with the architecture but Corinthian, Doric, Ionic and Tuscan are represented.




Behind them at  a distance, there is a second row of similar organization known as “the range”. Here the larger buildings were service buildings  and dining halls.  There are again 54 student rooms divided between the East and West Range.



The area behind each of the ten pavilions, between it and the range, is a beautiful enclosed garden.  All gardens are open to the public.  I strongly recommend you visit these gardens, see Jefferson’s serpentine walls and bring  a picnic.   I worked at the University of Virginia for over twenty years and often walked from my office to eat my lunch in one of the gardens.  They are beautiful at every time of the year but spring is especially spectacular.




I’ve started with Charlottesville’s #1 citizen.  However, now that you are in the town of Charlottesville there are other interesting things to see and do.  But enough for today.


  1. I've been to Monticello, and was impressed. Didn't he invent the internet?

    1. Roxie! I believe he did. ;-)

    2. Clearly you two need to move to C'ville. You'll fit right in with all the Jeffersonites! :o))

    3. No, you're confusing him with Al Gore... :)

  2. We were there 2 years ago ; loved it! After several hours, we found our way to Michie Tavern too. Great experience!

  3. Will definitely have to remember to make a stop in Charlottesville. What a beautiful and interesting place. Thanks for the suggestions.


  4. Thanks for the tour. It looks like a wonderful area. How about your recommendations for campgrounds??

  5. When we visited Monticello, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house. You must have gotten the local resident permission to do so. ;c)

    I have a funny feeling Jefferson was one of those people that couldn't sit still, I was amazed at how many times he rebuilt his home.

    Nice tour of UVA. We've been to the main part, but missed out on the gardens. That was about 16 years ago. Go Cavaliers! :c)

  6. Thomas had his hand in everything...I can see how you'd miss lunch. But what a buffet that was...stewed tomatoes one of my favorites with a little bread added! Anxious to follow your travels East!

  7. Jefferson's desk looks like the perfect arrangement for a laptop. A very inventive man. I'll bet his gardens are organic. Great tour.

  8. Have been to J's home twice now, most recently a few years ago in February. Mom and I took a tour of the house, and wandered the grounds ... I bet they are gorgeous when the flower are blooming. Also had lunch at Michie Tavern ... good food, but a bit on the pricey side we thought.

  9. now you tell me... sigh, going to have to make a return visit...

  10. Went all through that area on my way home from Shendoah. Beautiful area.

  11. He was indeed an inventive man. Beautiful campus also.

  12. Great post - does justice to Jefferson and his town...makes me feel lucky to have grown up there :) It is certainly a great place to come home to!


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