Generous Donation to Monticello Speeds Up Restoration Plans

By: Suzanne Wilson Email
By: Suzanne Wilson Email

April 22, 2012

Over the weekend, Monticello received a generous gift from Philanthropist David Rubenstein. Rubenstein donated $10 million to Thomas Jefferson's home becasue he sees the importance in keeping American history alive.

Monticello's staff has spent years researching and studying Thomas Jefferson's life. There are plans to recreate and restore the plantation and thanks to Rubenstein's donation, those plans are on the fast track.

Susan Stein, Senior Curator and Vice President of Museum Programs at Monticello, said, "Our goal is to help people understand the comprehensive Monticello. Jefferson didn't live here alone. He lived here with his family as well as some 100 to 130 enslaved people in any given year."

Stein continued, "His gift will enable us to realize and reveal the Monticello Jefferson knew and experienced. If we hadn't had this gift, it would have been a much slower project. What we would have had to of done is raise the funds for each space one by one."

There are three main areas where the money is going to be spent. The first is the most practical. The home needs a new heating and air conditioning system.

Next, Monticello staff is continuing to refurnish and bring alive the second and third floor rooms. That consists of everything from determining the original paint colors to the authentic room furnishing.

The final area is along Mulberry Row on the Plantation. Stein described Mullberry Row as "the dynamic hub" of the plantation. There are plans to build replicas of a slave quarter and an store house for iron along the path.

Stein said, "It allows us to really put a face on slavery here. Slavery will be understood and visible at Monticello in a way that it wasn't before."

Susan Anderson, a Monticello visitor, said, "I think most people are more visual and while the tours are very helpful, it would be nice to actually see what a building looked like where an enslaved family lived."

Rubenstien's generous gift will allow for visitors to see The Monticello Plantation through the eyes of Thomas Jefferson himself.

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