Tag Archives: Architecture
I recieved your favor of the 16th. by the last post, whereby I observe you are engaged on the N. Western cornice of the house. I would much rather have the 2d. and 3d. air-closets finished before any thing else; because it will be very disagreeable working in them after even one of them begins to be in use. I shall be at Monticello within a fortnight from this time.
To James Oldham, April 24, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders, like everyone else, must consider life’s most basic needs!
James Oldham was a joiner, one skilled in making things from wood, employed at Monticello from 1801-04. Twenty five years after Jefferson started construction, his mansion was still a work-in-progress. Oldham reported he was working on an architectural molding (cornice). Jefferson responded that he wanted the additional toilets (air-closets) done first.
His plan included three interior toilets, a private one off his bedroom, already in existence, and two others accessible from the first and second floors. At the very least, the toilets had pots under the seat which a slave would have emptied daily. Waste may have gone to the basement level to be emptied from there. Some of Jefferson’s earlier plans included piping water from a higher elevation into the house for some type of flushing system, but there is no indication that function was completed. His air-closets included skylights for illumination and ventilation shafts to carry away odors. Most evidence of the toilets and their operation disappeared decades ago with Monticello’s early restoration and the addition of a heating and cooling system.
It appears all three toilets would use the same ventilation system. Since Jefferson was in Washington City, his toilet was not in use. Oldham would encounter no odor problems installing the others. Jefferson told his joiner he would be home in two weeks. In other words, get them done before I return, and working conditions will be much more favorable for you.
For more than you ever wanted to know about Monticello’s air-closets and privies, read this.
“Everyone, to a person, commented on how thorough you were
and how every detail that was possible to recreate was covered.”
President, Cole County Historical Society
Mr. Jefferson’s thoroughness and attention to detail will delight your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-273
I cannot express to you the regret I feel on the subject of renouncing the Halle au bled lights of the Capitol dome. that single circumstance was to constitute the distinguishing merit of the room, & would solely have made it the handsomest room in the world, without a single exception. take that away, it becomes a common thing exceeded by many …the only objection having any weight with me is the danger of leaking … but as you state that it cannot be secured against leaking & that is more than a countervail for any degree of beauty sacrificed to it…
To Benjamin Henry Latrobe, September 8, 1805
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders must sometimes sacrifice pleasure to practicality.
Latrobe (1764-1820) was a professionally trained architect, Supervisor of Public Buildings in Washington City, and oversaw the construction of the U.S. Capitol Building. Jefferson, an accomplished self-taught architect, regularly contributed designs or ideas for public buildings.
The Halle au Bled was a grain market in Paris, and Jefferson loved its design! The circular domed roof was supported by wooden ribs with glass in between. The effect was continually changing light in the building’s interior as the sun moved across the sky. He insisted on the same design for the roof of the House chamber in the Capitol, to make “it the handsomest room in the world.”
The Paris roof contained 800 panes of glass with 2,400 joints. Latrobe could not guarantee a Capitol roof that would not leak. Reluctantly, the President relinquished his 20 year dream of having an American building with such a magnificent covering. Still, in another example of delegating authority broadly, he left the final decision on the roof to Latrobe.
“The positive comments from our staff and members continued
long after the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson’s remarks.”
Executive Director, Maine Municipal Association
Mr. Jefferson’s wisdom will remain with your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
The bearer hereof, mr Mills, a native of South Carolina, has passed some years at this place as a Student in architecture. he is now setting out on a journey through the states to see what is worth seeing in that line in each state. he will visit Boston with the same view, and knowing your taste for the art, I take the liberty of recommending him to your notice, and of asking for him whatever information on the subject may be useful to his views while in Boston.
To Charles Bulfinch, July 2, 1802
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Smart leaders nurture young talent.
Robert Mills (1781-1855) was almost 21 when Jefferson wrote this letter of introduction. Young Mills was already studying architecture and had helped build the President’s House in Washington City. Jefferson made his library available to Mills. Now, Mills was beginning an architectural tour of the states.
Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844) was a noted Boston architect. With very little university training available in America, the mentor-protege system was necessary to prepare young talented young men. By this letter, Jefferson introduced Mills to Bulfinch, asking the older man’s assistance in educating the architect-in-training.
Mills had a significant architectural career. Although modified considerably from his original rendering, Mills was the designer of the Washington Monument. That construction began in 1848, reaching a height of about 155’ by the time of Mills’ death. For several reasons, construction ceased and was not begun again for 20 years. Upon completion in 1884, it was the tallest building in the world, just over 555’.
Among the inscriptions on the nine-inch aluminum tip that caps the monument, facing the rising sun each day, are these words, “Laus Deo.” Translated from Latin, they read “Praise be to God.”