Parquet Floor from Monticello

A few people have asked about the parquet floor that we did in our front hallway-what was the inspiration for it?

The truth is, that was in the works from the very beginning. At our very first meeting with the architect, my husband mentioned the parquet floor. Right away Jen Hart, the architect, lit up-“I have always wanted to do that!” she said. The reason? They both went to the University of Virginia and love Monticello in Charlottesville. This floor is in the parlor (pictured below) and is made of cherry and beech. It is said that Thomas Jefferson designed it himself, although the thought is that he may have seen something similar during his years in France as the  Ambassador in 1784-89.
Each unit is constructed of a center square of cherry and a border of beech. When first installed, the contrast between the woods would have been even more striking than it is today, with the cherry coming across as a rich red and the beech a golden blonde. Beeswax was the only substance used to bring out the color of the woods. Additionally, the squares were installed with their grains going in alternating directions, which would have added further nuance to the regular geometric pattern of the floor, depending on the angle of light and where one was standing.

J J Hardwood Floors from Acton,MA certainly did a very good job of replicating the floor for us. We were all very true to the design as well as the woods used for the project and the installation.

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More Monticellos?!

 

The “New Monticello” in Somers, Connecticut
(photos:SOTHEBY’S INTERNATIONAL REALTY)

On his gravestone at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson chose to be remembered for three things: the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia statute for religious freedom, and the University of Virginia.

Though 100-year-old S. Prestley Blake of Somers, Connecticut, has not yet shuffled off this mortal coil, he wants to be remembered for just one thing: his devotion to Thomas Jefferson. The centenarian has, in fact, summed up a lifetime’s admiration of Jefferson in one parting gesture—he has built a $6 million replica of Monticello next to his own Connecticut estate.

Though the home looks like Monticello from the exterior, the kitchen (top) and bathrooms (bottom) inside boast modern amenities and design.

Like the real Monticello in Charlottesville, Blake’s replica sits on a hill, commanding a view of the surrounding area and commanding the attention of passersby. Near the door of this dream home, which he plans to sell to a “worthy buyer,” he has placed a plaque with a quote by Jefferson—taken from a 1787 letter to George Gilmer: “I am as happy no where else and in no other society, and all my wishes end, where I hope my days will end, at Monticello.”

Blake—who never attended U.Va. or lived anywhere near Charlottesville—sees the just-completed project as his gift to posterity.

“The last sentence in my book that is coming out this spring is ‘I am 100 years old and this is my swan song,’” he said.

Blake will, of course, be remembered for other things besides his Monticello. For one, he is cofounder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, an iconic restaurant chain in New England.

For another, Mr. Blake’s just-completed Monticello is not his first architectural tribute to Jefferson. In the 1990s, he and his wife, Helen, donated the funds for a Monticello-inspired building to house the middle school at Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. Five years ago, they funded the construction of the president’s residence at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., a structure that also contains echoes of Monticello.

It was while the Springfield College project was under way that Mr. Blake began to conceive of “his” Monticello in Somers, located just over the state border from Springfield.

“Monticello is the most prominent private residence in the United States. You see it reproduced everywhere,” says Blake, who has visited Monticello many times. “Five years ago, I went down to Charlottesville to see it again. I love good architecture and Jefferson’s is the best.”

When the property next door to his own came up for sale, Mr. Blake reached his Rubicon. He purchased the land, about 10 acres, tore down the structures that were on it and began to put his signature idea into action. Then he hired Bill LaPlante, who owned the contracting company that built the president’s house at Springfield College.

“When we learned he wanted us to build Monticello, I was shocked. I dismissed it, thinking, ‘This isn’t going to happen,’” LaPlante says.

And yet, Mr. Blake called back soon thereafter, saying he had plane tickets ready for LaPlante and his father, Raymond, founder of the company, to Charlottesville.

At Monticello, the LaPlantes met with various officials who spent six hours answering their questions.

“They were extremely gracious. “It was interesting to see the progression of Monticello,” LaPlante says. “Jefferson would build something, then tear it down, and put something else up. He spent his life obsessed with architecture and this house.”

For the actual architectural plans, the LaPlantes consulted Monticello in Measured Drawings, a book of plans compiled directly from the Historic American Buildings Survey. While most of the exterior of Mr. Blake’s Monticello conforms to Mr. Jefferson’s original, only some of the interior retains the Jeffersonian touch, including the dining room, tea room, main foyer and hall and the use of a Monticello pattern on the parquet floors. Jefferson tinkered away on his house for 28 years, and spent about $100,461 (roughly $1.3 million in today’s dollars). The LaPlantes, meanwhile, working in a more technologically-advanced time, different time, needed only 18 months.

And while Jefferson’s house is roughly 11,000 square feet, Blake’s is a streamlined 10,000 square feet with modern amenities like geothermal heating and three helicopter landing sites on the property. There are also small touches to adhere to local ordinances, like railings on the front door entryway.

“We re-created the front façade to scale, which is 95 percent accurate,” says LaPlante. “The original porches on the sides are now enclosed and the rear of the house is 50 percent accurate.”

Blake is particularly proud, albeit amused, by the attention to detail.

“I wanted to have the house as close as possible to the original, and this one has the exact same footprint as Jefferson’s,” he says. “Bricks normally cost 50 cents apiece, but ours cost $1 apiece because they’re handmade. It took 95,000 bricks, exactly the same as Monticello, even down to artificially cracking them to look like Jefferson’s. LaPlante had ten finishing carpenters who were minutely fussy, and excellent sub-contractors who all had the same attitude. “I want Bill LaPlante to put a plaque up so that future generations will know he built this,” Blake says.

Blake does not regret the expense of this project.

“I spent a fortune to build it but I don’t care if I get my money back. That’s not why I built it. I built it for posterity, not to live in it. It’s done wonders for the community. The house is lit up at night and people drive by and take photographs and are so proud of it.”

Perhaps what makes Blake happiest of all is that the house was completed by the holidays, allowing him to declare something few ever get to these days: “We had Christmas dinner at Monticello.”

(article written by Alan Bisbort)

Richmond, Virginia

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I had one very busy day in Richmond a few weeks ago, but I learned and saw a lot. Most interesting to me were the statues of soldiers on horses all the way down Monument Avenue. There are several statues but the one of General Robert E. Lee is the largest and was the first installed along Monument Avenue. If a statue is facing north, the soldier died in the Civil War; if the statue faces south, the soldier lived, as in the case of Robert E. Lee. No other city in the world has statues commemorating a war that it actually lost,which is an interesting fact!

Richmond was the Capital of the Confederacy, a commercial center for the slave trade, and the site of several major battles – in fact, the entire downtown was burned to the ground, days before Abraham Lincoln walked the streets. Richmond, Virginia was “ground zero” during the Civil War. This makes it a rich and powerful region to tour, and the ideal place to begin a multi-state Civil War and Emancipation immersion.

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The Jefferson Hotel was supposed to open on November 1, 1895, but at the last minute it was realized that November 1 was a Friday, and it was considered bad luck to start anything on a Friday. So the hotel was opened on Halloween, 1895 instead. The staircase in the center of the hotel is the one said to have been copied for the “Gone With the Wind” scene later in the movie, where Rhett Butler carries Scarlett up the grand,beautiful staircase.

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In his autobiography, The Moon’s A Balloon (1972), Academy Award-winning actor David Niven described a trip from New York to Florida in the late 1930s, when he decided to spend the night at the Jefferson Hotel. Niven said that, as he was signing the guest registry in the lobby, his eyes snapped open with amazement when he noticed a full-sized alligator swimming in a small pool located six feet from the reception desk.The alligators at the Jefferson became world famous. Old Pompey, the last alligator living in the marble pools of the Jefferson’s Palm Court, survived until 1948. Bronze statues of the alligators now decorate the hotel. Its restaurant, Lemaire, has a theme of alligator motifs.

Ash Lawn-Highland

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Ash Lawn-Highland, located near Charlottesville Virginia and adjacent to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, was the estate of James Monroe, fifth President of the US. Purchased in 1793, Monroe and his family permanently settled on the property in 1799 and lived at Ash Lawn–Highland for twenty-four years. Personal debt forced Monroe to sell the plantation in 1825.

President Monroe simply called his home “Highland.” It did not acquire the additional name of “Ash Lawn” until after his death.

The estate is now owned, operated and maintained by Monroe’s alma mater, the College of William and Mary.

Encouraged by his close friend, Thomas Jefferson, Monroe purchased a deed for one thousand acres (4 km²) of land adjacent to Monticello in 1793 for an equal number of pounds from the Carter family. Six years later, Monroe moved his family onto the plantation, where they resided for the next twenty-four years. In 1800, Monroe described his home as:

“One wooden dwelling house, the walls filled with brick. One story high, 40 by 30 ft. Wooden Wing one storey high, 34 by 18 ft.”

Over the next 16 years, Monroe continued to add onto his home, adding stone cellars and a second story to the building. He also expanded his land holdings, which at their greatest included over 3,500 acres (14 km²). However, by 1815, Monroe increasingly turned to selling his land to pay for debt. By 1825, he was forced to sell his home and the property.

The home today consists of a one-story, three bay by three bay, original frame section connected to a two-over-two central hall addition by a short wide hall serving as a parlor. The addition dates to the mid-19th century. The front of Ash Lawn faces north toward Monticello, which is visible from the front porch. Also on the property are a contributing gable-roofed ice house, a gable-roofed cabin with an exterior end brick chimney, and a smokehouse with a pyramidal roof.

Highland was featured in Bob Vila’s production, Guide to Historic Homes of America.

Today, Ash Lawn–Highland is a 535 acre (2.2 km²) working farm, museum, and a performance site for arts, operated by the College of William and Mary. It is open to the public year round, though with limited hours from October through March.

-Wikapedia excerpts

Monticello

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Architect,gardener,scientist,philosopher,mathematician,horticulturist,politician and spoke 5 languages…Jefferson was truly a man of the enlightenment. Beginning with entering the front hallway of Monticello you are told by the tour guide that he specifically made the entrance a “Museum” with relics from the Lewis and Clark expedition,maps, and antlers of animals both rare and native to Virginia.He felt that if anyone was waiting for him, they surely should be learning while waiting.

Also in the entrance hall there is a clock which not only tells the time but tells the day of the week. He ran out of room as the ball descends to Friday afternoon so he merely cut a hole and put Saturday in the basement! He also had extensive notes on the weather each day.

He thought about ease and convenience in many instances. He invented the swivel chair, a double door which when you open on one side, has a pulley system he invented to open the other. He had a dumb waiter that spins around for staff to collect  dishes after a meal , a pulley system to the basement where new bottles of wine can be brought up,the empties taken away. His closet above his bed(which to his specification is 6’3″ to be 1/2 inch longer than his 6’2 1/2″ to not waste room) has holes for ventilation but is a clever way to hide his clothes and not take up room. His bed was conveniently positioned between the bedroom and the office so he could leap out to begin his day’s work and study.

Jefferson was very fond of the architect Andrea Palladio. He spent over 40 years altering and working on Monticello-always discovering something new that he saw when he resided in Europe several times. Even now there is much work going on-they are building cabins that would look like the slave quarters seen at Monticello in jefferson’s day.

On this topic,slavery, Jefferson never resolved his own personal feelings. He definitely felt that all men were created equal yet he had over 200 slaves on his property.

Jefferson stated in a letter to a friend “All my wishes end,where I hope my days will end,at Monticello”. He died on July 4,1826-just hours before his friend John Adams in Boston,and 50 years to the day of the enactment of the Declaration of Independence which he penned.

If you have not made it to Monticello which is located near Charlottesville, Virginia- you really need to add it to your list.

6 Things You Might Not Know about The Fourth!

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1. Perhaps the greatest misconception of this American holiday lies in the name and its equally iconic date. The true “Independence Day” depends on your definition of when such an official declaration was indeed truly official. It’s widely believed that America’s first Continental Congress declared their independence from the British monarchy on July 4th, 1776. However, the official vote actually took place two days before and the “Declaration” was published in the newspapers on July 4th.

2. It is also often believed that when the vote was made official, everyone signed it on that fateful day, a moment that’s often portrayed in popular paintings. However, it took an entire month to get all 56 delegates together to put their “John Hancock” on the document. In fact, the only person to sign the document on July 4th was also its first signer: John Hancock.

3.One of the Declaration’s signers and future presidents wrote a famous series of memorable letters to his beloved wife Abigail detailing the events that led to the nation’s founding. The one he sent announcing the Congress’ vote regarding the official Declaration of Independence predicted, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”

4.The publication of the Declaration of Independence may have accidentally made the Fourth of July the official day of independence for America, but the deaths of two of its founders cemented its creation of the date’s designation. US Presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Adams passed away on July 4th. The even more amazing coincidence is that both died on the same day in the same year of 1826 by a difference of five hours with Jefferson passing first at age 82 and Adams at age 90.

5.Fourth of July celebrations these days are filled with fireworks, clothes and ornaments covered in red, white and blue. Such colors weren’t widely available for decoration in the shadow of the nation’s birth, especially in the heat of battle during the Revolutionary War. The first few Independence Day celebrations used greenery as decorations instead. They also fired artillery used in battles following the completion of the war for the Fourth of July, but the practice dissipated as the cannons fell apart over time and were slowly replaced with fireworks.

6.The American flag has gone through many alterations as the regions grew and even reached beyond its borders. The modern “50 star flag,” however, has an interesting story behind its creation.
High school student Robert G. Heft of Lancaster, Ohio was assigned to create a new “national banner” for America that would recognize the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii. Heft simply added two extra stars to the flag to give it an even 50 and stitched his own design. His teacher only gave him a “B-minus” for his effort, so he sent his project to President Dwight D. Eisenhower for consideration and a change of grade. Eisenhower chose his design personally and the new flag was officially adopted in 1960. His teacher then gave him an “A” instead.

The Painted Room/Architectural Color Consultation

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I absolutely love my friend’s website. I knew her years ago in Washington DC and it is funny that we have both ended up in design-we both had a real love and interest in it even amidst all of the diapers and runny noses!

The first picture illustrates how a burst of a great color can really change a room,it is Ben Moore “Sea Reflections” 1664. The second photo is just a lovely milky soft brown-called Ben Moore “Weimaraner”. Of course!

She posts beautiful photos on Facebook and has a wonderful website for her company:
The Painted Room/Architectural Color Consultation.Check it out!

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