Dining Room

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Dimensions: 18' 6" x 18' 0"; ceiling 17' 9" (shown from perspective of Tea Room)

Order: Doric

Source: Palladio

Color: Originally unpainted plaster, then yellow, then wall-papered; current blue paint dates from 1890

Purpose of Room: Dining area

Architectural features: Two sets of window sashes insulate room; double pocket doors on rollers separate the Dining Room from the western-most, and coldest, Tea Room; the Dining Room features one of Monticello's thirteen skylights; wine dumbwaiter on either side of fireplace brought wine up from cellar below; serving door with shelves enabled slaves to move dishes in and out of the room more easily and with fewer intrusions to diners; Wedgwood decoration on fireplace

Furnishings of Note: Several dining tables could be used or were folded against a wall when not needed. Dumbwaiters -- or shelved tables on casters -- were wheeled to the table, and guests then served themselves. The table featured French figurines and porcelain, English creamware, Chinese porcelain, glass serving pieces, and silver flatware, casseroles, and other tableware. Several silver and gold goblets and tumblers were made to Jefferson's design, as was a coffee urn. Jefferson kept books on the fireplace mantel which he read while waiting for diners to arrive at the table. One of the chairs shown in the room today is the last in which Jefferson sat -- after Jefferson's death his grandson-in-law Nicholas Philip Trist carved the initials "TJ" into the chair's left arm.

Primary Source References

1802 September 18. (Mrs. William Thornton). "We went thro' a large unfinished hall, loose plank forming the floor, lighted by one dull lantern, into a large room with a small bow and separated by an arch, where the company were seated at tea,-no light being in the large part of the room & part of the family being seated there, the appearance was irregular & unpleasant."[1]

1812. (Eva Millar-Nourse). "...a French book was always kept on the mantle-piece in the dining room and while waiting for the servants to set the table they would read together."[2]

1814. (Francis Calley Gray). "On looking round the room n which we sat the first thing which attracted our attention was the state of the chairs. They had leather bottoms stuffed with hair, but the bottoms were completely worn through and the hair sticking out in all directions; on the mantle-piece which was large and of marble were many books of all kinds, Livy, Orosious, Edinburgh Review, 1 vol. of Edgeworth's Moral Tales, etc., etc. There were many miserable prints and some fine pictures hung round the room among them two plans for the completion of the Capitol at Washington, one of them very elegant. A harpsichord stood in one corner of the room. There were four double windows from the wall to the floor of fine large glass and a recess in one side o the apartment..."[3]

1820 December 1. (Cornelia Jefferson Randolph to Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist). "I had all our plants moved into the dining room before I left home and yours along with them. I hope they may be able to bear this bitter cold weather."[4]

1826. (Elizabeth Lindsay Gordon). "She said she had observed that there was always a volume of some sort on the mantle shelf of the dining-room at Monticello, from which, whenever she entered the room at meal times, she almost always found him reading, while he stood near the fire-place, waiting for family and guests to assemble."[5]

1827 July 29. (Mary Jefferson Randolph to Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge). "One plan that Virginia has suggested...live entirely on the first floor which might be made to accommodate us but would not admit of guests...we might use the dining room as a bedroom & breakfast and dine in the hall..."[6]

1828 November 26. (Virginia Jefferson Randolph Trist to Nicholas Philip Trist). "I have dined at table for several days, and have taken my breakfast in the dining room twice..."[7]

Footnotes

  1. Mrs. William Thorton Papers, Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/
  2. 'The Millar Dubois Family Its History and Genealoy] (1928), 97.
  3. Thomas Jefferson in 1814 (Boston: The Club of Odd Volumes, 1924), 68.
  4. Nicholas Philip Trist Papers. University of North Carolina. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/
  5. Armistead C. Gordon. [http://worldcat.org/oclc/23061050 William Fitzhugh Gordon, A Virginian of the Old School: His Life and Contemporaries (1787-1858). (New York: Neale Publishing, 1909).
  6. University of Virginia. http://www.lib.virginia.edu/small/
  7. Nicholas Philip Trist Papers. University of North Carolina. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/

Further Sources