My first book, “Buzzy and Thomas Move into the President’s House,” will come out in October on Amazon in ebook and printed form. This early chapter reader is about Buzzy, Thomas Jefferson’s dog, moving into the White House with newly elected President Jefferson. But Buzzy loves living at Monticello and doesn’t want to move. What will she do?
To continue my research on Thomas Jefferson, I took a trip to Monticello.
My docent led tour started at the Northeast portico, which then and today serves as the front door. Directly above the door is the “Great Clock.” The clock has a dual face, one on the outside of the door and another on the inside of the door. It also tracks the days of the week and was wound every Sunday. Mr. Jefferson designed this clock to serve the residents of the house and the workers in the field.
Still standing under the portico, I looked above me and saw the “Compass Rose”, a compass connected to the weather vane on the roof. Mr. Jefferson and his family could determine the wind direction without stepping outside! This was altogether different because they didn’t have cell phones to tell them the weather!
We were not allowed to take photos inside the house but I’d like to tell you about a couple of things that stood out for me. In the dining room, Jefferson had installed a revolving serving door, which connected to the stairs leading to the kitchen. The servants could place plated dishes on the shelves and turn the door into the dining room where Jefferson or another servant could grab the plates to serve. When no servants were present inside the dining room, Jefferson had complete privacy when entertaining if needed.
Jefferson had designed his bed in the same manner as he noticed in France, when he was ambassador for 7 years. The bed was placed sideways in an alcove, which gave the room more space. It seems logical now, but in those days, no one was doing that except the French!
Jefferson wrote many letters and in 1804, acquired a device called a “Polygraph” that could duplicate his letters while he wrote them. Invented by John Isaac Hawkins, the polygraph used the principles of the pantograph, a draftsman's tool for reducing and enlarging drawings. The writer's hand moves one pen whose action is duplicated by the second one, producing a copy strikingly like the original. Because of this device, we have copies of over 11,000 letters that Jefferson wrote!
Jefferson was known for many things, but not many people know that he loved his vegetable garden. It still stands today, with many plants that grew when he was alive. In the Monticello Café, I ate sautéed kale, from kale grown in his garden. He grew many kinds of lettuce, peas, beans and strawberries. He also planted sesame seeds, which he used to make his own salad dressing!
We toured the kitchen, stables and wine storeroom as well. While in France, Jefferson collected many kitchen utensils, which he brought back with him to Monticello. In 1809 and kitchen remodel was completed which included a bake oven, fireplace and stew stove. Jefferson is described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist.” He believed the United States could “make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe, not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.” His wine cellar was built directly beneath the dining room with bottle-sized dumbwaiters that rose into the cellar’s ceiling and into both sides of the mantelpiece in the dining room.
My visit to Monticello taught me a lot about our 3rd President and founding father. As I walked around the grass, flowers and gardens, I could envision my main character, Buzzy, running around, chasing a stick, lounging under a cherry tree and playing in the snow.
I hope you’ll love my new book and share it with friends and family. And if you’re ever near Richmond, Virginia, stop and visit Buzzy and Thomas’ home, Monticello.
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