From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Revision as of 08:54, 23 April 2008 by Bcraig (Talk | contribs)

Dimensions: 18' 7"x 13' 5"; ceiling 18' 8"

Order: Ionic

Source: Temple of Fortuna Virilis from Palladio; frieze from Desgodetz, Les Édifices Antiques de Rome

Color: There is evidence that the room was wallpapered; today painted oyster white

Purpose of Room: Bedroom

Architectural Features: Alcove Bed, open on both sides, joins the Bedroom with Jefferson's Cabinet, or office -- a hinged, double-door screen (not shown today) separated the two rooms when shut; a privy was located near one end of the bed, an early example of indoor bathroom facilities in America; the room features one of the house's thirteen skylights; closet over the bed utilized space efficiently and was accessible via ladder.

Furnishings of Note: Alcove bed appears small but is 6' 3" in length and the width of a double bed; clothes "horse" in closet (not shown in the house today -- a conjectural drawing is shown in the "Jefferson" section); obelisk clock at foot of bed enabled Jefferson to get out of bed "with the sun"; crimson silk counterpane with fringe (designed by Jefferson) covered the bed; mirrors were used to maximize the natural light.

Primary Source References

1807. (Sir Augustus John Foster). "...the President had his Bed placed in a Door way..."[1]

1814. (Francis Gray). "Mr. Jefferson took us from his library into his bed chamber where, on a table before the fire, stood a polygraph with which he said he always wrote."[2]

1815 November 4. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "In the closet over my bed you will find a bag tied up, and labelled 'Wolf-skin pelisse' and another labelled 'fur boots,' wherein those articles are found. The pelisse had better be sowed up in a striped blanket to keep it clean and uninjured; the boots in any coarse wrapper."[3]

1823 January 18. (Margaret Bayard Smith). "The bed is built into the wall, in a sort of alcove, which in winter must be very comfortable, as it excludes every draught of air--but in the summer, must for the same reason be very uncomfortable. I observed the same arrangement in all the chambers I saw. On the wall, at the foot of the bed was hung his pistols and sword, which I imagine has not been removed for many a year: against the wall, at the head of his bed, was a lamp, which enabled him, when he wished to read, to do it with great safety and convenience."[4]


  1. Peterson, Visitors, 37.
  2. Francis Gray. Thomas Jefferson in 1814. (Boston: The Club of Odd Volumes, 1924), 68-69.
  3. Family Letters, 411.
  4. Richmond Enquirer. 18 January 1823.