Two of his lifelong friends, James Madison and James Monroe, also made their homes in the same area. These three friends all ended up living within a day's drive of each other and in the case of Monroe and Jefferson, within a stone's throw.
The homes of these three men are very good reasons to visit Charlottesville.
Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Monticello means little mountain in Italian and it is the name Jefferson chose for the home he would design. Visits begin at the Visitor Center where tour tickets are purchased. A shuttle ride brings you to the top of the hill. All tours of the house are guided and take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes depending on your guide and how many questions people ask.
You then have plenty of time to wander the grounds, visit Mulberry Row and the underground portions of the house. You can choose to walk down through the grounds to the cemetery or wait and take the shuttle.
At the Visitor Center enjoy the 15-minute film. Then head to the museum for a visit. Allow at least 2 hours and you certainly could spend a lot more than that if you have the interest. The gift shop is an excellent one and there is also a cafe if you need to grab a bite to eat.
James Monroe's Highland
James and Elizabeth Monroe lived just over the hill from Monticello in a house they called Highland. It was their official residence from 1799 to 1826. It was sold after that and they moved to their other home Oak Hill.
A fire destroyed part of the house and the front is a Victorian addition built on what the curators believe is the foundation of Monroe’s addition. You begin your tour in the new part of the house where there are rotating displays and then go into the smaller part of the house. It is jam packed with Monroe memorabilia and the tour is fascinating. It takes about 30 minutes.
There are several outbuildings as well as gardens to visit. Allow at least an hour and a half to complete your tour.
James Madison's Montpelier
Montpelier was the home of James and Dolly Madison. The original house was built by James’ father and when James brought his wife home he asked his friend Thomas Jefferson to help him to add onto the house to create a place for his wife and his mother. What he got was a duplex which today is all one house.
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After James died the house was sold and Dolly went to live in Washington. It went through many owners before being bought by William du Pont. duPont more than doubled the size of the house and brought in horses and steeple chasing. It was William’s daughter, Marion DuPont Scott, who gave the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The duPont additions have been removed and the house has been returned to the home that the Madison’s lived in.
There is a wonderful visitor center with an introductory movie. A quarter mile walk to the house from the visitor center and more to the cemetery are required. Extensive grounds and gardens are open to tours and archeological digs are ongoing. Galleries with changing displays are offered in the visitor center as well.
Allow several hours to enjoy all that this house has to offer.
If these three houses don't entice you to visit Charlottesville, nothing will. Well maybe a stay at the Boar's Head Inn might or dining at the Barbeque Exchange, but that is another article altogether.