Thomas Jefferson's Home, Monticello Survives Earthquake
Monticello Survives Earthquake 2011
This week there was a 5.8 Richter earthquake on the east coast of the USA. The central location of the quake was reported to be Mineral, VA. Not knowing where that town was, I mapped it and was surprised to see that Mineral is near Thomas Jefferson's Monticello mansion....and I immediately started wondering what might have happened to this amazing house.
An email to the official website got a surprisingly quick reply that the home had not suffered any damage that was visible. I was relieved because this is such a special place to me.
Everybody that is fortunate to travel some in their youth sometimes have life changing visits to historic sites...places that really make an impression on them. Seeing Monticello was one of those for me. I think it should be a "must see" place for every kid in America.
The reason I say that is that Thomas Jefferson was for me, the first exposure I ever had to a true Renaissance Man. Besides being a President, the main author of the Constitution, Gov. of Virginia and Minister to France (just to name a small number of his accomplishments)....he was a self taught architect, President of the University of Virginia, accomplished gardener, and inventor. On a sadder note, he was an owner of slaves. The last item, sadly being all that so many people today remember of this great man....that and the extensive evidence suggesting he may have had intimate relations with a slave after his wife died, with a complete line of descendants (who says history is boring!).
For me, visiting his home when I was a young boy was something of a revelation. We toured the small, small house he lived in with his new bride and I remember thinking, you can live elegantly in a really tiny space. And to this day I am interested in small houses like the line of Tumbleweed Homes.
But the true magic for me came when we walked through the later built (twice) mansion. He devised an amazing clock that was powered by gravity and cannon balls. He created a machine to make duplicate copies of his documents. Even his bed was a perfect idea of form meets function. All of this was just proof to me that you can turn your fantasies into reality.
Later, I read many books about his life and his love of gardening. Because of this I was inspired to take up gardening and keep detailed notes, as he did, about what worked and what did not....and painstakingly laying out and diagramming the gardens I had over the years. Jefferson was an amazing journal keeper and letter writer, which is why a great deal is known about him. No detail was too small or unimportant for him to keep track of....which can be both good and bad. But, in his case, he had the intellectual capacity to absorb all this information without the information overload that happens to so many of us.
Although I am not at all skilled to be able to design homes, I have found it interesting and thought provoking to sketch out possible designs with a thought towards practical elements ...which interested Jefferson so much. When I do that, or look at someone's professional plan, I always find myself thinking, is that something practical like Thomas Jefferson would design for his own home. In his world, everything had to have a practical purpose, yet be also aesthetic.
In another words, Thomas Jefferson has given me a standard that I use to judge the current world. And sadly, most of the time it does not meet his standards.
But, his influence has gone way beyond that for me. For instance, I would probably, not be writing this except for the fact that Mr. Jefferson, as I have said, believed in chronicling everything....he truly left us the story of his life, thoughts and dreams. He was a voracious writer and journal keeper. As a kid, this made a big impression on me.
If you have children, and especially if you are on the east coast, I cannot tell you how inspiring it might be for your young son or daughter to see some of these places where America was started, but more importantly the men and women who had the talents to vault to the forefront with creativity and verve.
When I heard there had been an earthquake so close to his home, I was very anxious to know if it had been destroyed or damaged this historical site. Thomas Jefferson's Monticello is a place of inspiration and pride for America. I am so happy it is still with us.
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