The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, is a private, nonprofit corporation founded in 1923 to purchase and maintain Monticello, the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States The Foundation’s initial focus was on architectural preservation, with the goal of restoring Monticello as close to its original appearance as possible It has since grown to include other historic and cultural pursuits and programs such as its Annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony It also publishes and provides a center for scholarship on Jefferson and his era
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc owns and operates Monticello, a World Heritage Site that was Thomas Jefferson’s plantation home near Charlottesville, Virginia The dual mission of the Foundation is preservation and education Its overarching is vision is to engage a national and global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas
Jefferson, third US president, philosopher, scientist, historian, and author of the Declaration of the Independence, helped establish the foundations of self-government and individual freedom we know today Jefferson’s words—the Declaration and his more than 19,000 letters—and his architecture—including Monticello and the University of Virginia— provide a lens for scholars and visitors today to view the beginnings of early America Through virtual, off-site and on-site engagement, the Foundation seeks to excite the world about Jefferson’s relevance today and ignite a passion for history
The Foundation was officially launched at the University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded During 1924 the Foundation opened Monticello to the general public and began repair and maintenance work on the property, which had fallen into disrepair That same year architectural historian Fiske Kimball was named as the Chairman of the Restoration Committee and would serve in a leading role in Monticello’s restoration until his death In the following year the National Education Committee was formed to “promote restoration of Monticello and to spread Jeffersonian ideals”
In the immediate years following its launch the Foundation became active in various historic pursuits and in 1929 elected Thomas Edison as the first “Nation’s Guest of Honor” in recognition of his service in “science, art, education, literature, or government” A year later this recognition went to Rear Admiral Richard E Byrd
The Foundation paid off its first mortgage in 1928 Although it experienced financial hardship during the Great Depression, the Foundation was officially debt free by 1940 In 1960 it moved its headquarters from New York to Monticello, where it has remained Two years later the Foundation launched its Annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony, which is still held today and is considered to be the “oldest continuous naturalization ceremony held outside of a courtroom in the United States” During January 2000 the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation changed its name to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, who began designing and building Monticello at age 26 after inheriting land from his father. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres (20 km2), with Jefferson using 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. In 1987 Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current nickel, a United States coin, features a depiction of Monticello on its reverse side.
Jefferson designed the main house using neoclassical design principles described by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and reworking the design through much of his presidency to include design elements popular in late 18th-century Europe and integrating numerous of his own design solutions. Situated on the summit of an 850-foot (260 m)-high peak in the Southwest Mountains south of the Rivanna Gap, the name Monticello derives from the Italian for “little mount”. Along a prominent lane adjacent to the house, Mulberry Row, the plantation came to include numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, e.g., a nailery; quarters for domestic slaves; gardens for flowers, produce, and Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding—along with tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field slaves were farther from the mansion.
At Jefferson’s direction, he was buried on the grounds, in an area now designated as the Monticello Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the Monticello Association, a society of his descendants through Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. After Jefferson’s death, his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph sold the property. In 1834 it was bought by Uriah P. Levy, a commodore in the U.S. Navy, 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), which operates it as a house museum and educational institution.
Efforts to restore Monticello began shortly after the Foundation’s purchase, and in 1924 work began on the main house’s supporting stone walls The terraces and roof were also repaired and the house was repainted The Foundation also began restoring Monticello’s gardens and invited the Garden Club of America (GCA) to give advice The GCA would later assist with funding for the restoration of the Kitchen Road, which leads from the main house to Mulberry Row
In 1927 Monticello’s Great Clock was repaired and during the following year the Foundation restored the slave quarters under the south terrace In the following years the Foundation restored more of the plantation as closely to its original state as possible It has bought additional land that formerly belonged or pertained to Jefferson, including the Shadwell plantation where the President was born (purchased in 1963), one of his original farms, Tufton (purchased in 1968), and Montalto (acquired in 2004) The Foundation now owns roughly 2,500 acres of Jefferson’s original 5,000-acre estate at Monticello, of which it has put 1,060 acres under permanent preservation easements
In 1987 Monticello, along with the University of Virginia, were jointly inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in recognition of their “outstanding universal value” This marks Monticello as the only presidential home in America on the World Heritage List.