(b. 1743, Shadwell, d. 1826, Monticello)

Jefferson's House

Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, became a key figure in the turn to Neoclassicism from the Roman-Baroque pathos of the Late Georgian Style that had begun to be thought of as conservative. He pioneered also an independent North American architecture. As a connoisseur he had studied the works of the English Neo-Palladians early in his career, and from 1768 had begun to draw his own designs. In 1769 he designed and built a villa modeled on Palladio's centrally planned structures for his country estate in Monticello. Influenced by his years as ambassador to Paris - which had brought him into contact with contemporary French architecture - he later redesigned crucial features of this building, lending it more monumentality and grace. The building was not completed until 1809.

The white portico on four Corinthian columns rises to the height of a single floor and is clearly differentiated from the broad brick expanse of the body of the house. A dome on an octagonal drum signals this as being the most important part of the house. In a language of classical forms Jefferson created a building whose elegance - and, in particular, its integration into the surrounding landscape - directly address the viewers's senses.

The villa in Monticello became the cradle of the Federal Style, as the architecture of the newly independent 13 North American states was called. This Neoclassical style was combined with Enlightenment thought, while at the same time its monumentality and dominance of landscape could be translated into ever greater dimensions.