From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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The mountain that Thomas Jefferson named Montalto is a part of the Carters Mountain[1] range and is today sometimes known as Brown's Mountain. In 1777, Jefferson purchased 483 acres of land on the mountain from Edward Carter, the second son of John Carter, who had received the land from King George II as his Colonial Secretary. Jefferson never built anything on Montalto, although he did draw plans for an observation tower there. Following Jefferson's death, the land was inherited by his daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. In 1832, Montalto was sold to Benjamin Sneed, and subsequently passed through numerous owners.[2]

In 1905, the land was purchased by James Addison Patterson, who began construction of the house and barns, designed by architect Charles Barton Keen. The house was named “Repose”, and upon Patterson's death in 1931, was bequeathed to the Martha Jefferson Hospital, who rented portions of it out.[3]

In 1950, the property was purchased by Lois and Nelson Brown, for whom it is now named. The Brown family renovated the house and made minor additions.[4] In the 1950s, the Brown's operated a gift shop out of the barn, until it burned in 1959. After that time, the remaining barns were rented as apartments.[5] In the early 1970s, the Brown's sold the property, which is today owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.



1771. Jefferson took steps to acquire the mountain he would call High Mountain and Montalto. In exchange for legal services for Edward Carter (docking the entail of the Carter lands), Jefferson was to receive "as much of his nearest mountain as can be seen from mine, and 100 yds. beyond the lines of sight agreed before Capt. Burton."[6]

1776 Sep. 15. Jefferson took a barometric reading on the summit of Montalto, in order to calculate its elevation.[7]

1777 Oct. 17. Jefferson became legal owner of 483 acres of Montalto.[8]

1778 Nov. 5. Jefferson considered enclosing 400 acres of Montalto with a stone wall.[9]

1770s, probably post Nov. 1778. Jefferson prepared several designs for structures planned for the summit of Montalto: observation towers 100' high, a 200' column. None were ever constructed.[10]

1796. Jefferson gave Nicholas H. Lewis 12.5 acres of Montalto in exchange for 27.5 acres on Monticello's western boundary.[11]

c1800 ? TJ planned improvements to Monticello and Montalto, to include bringing water from the Montalto spring by pipes or a cascade, converting Montalto to "park & riding grounds," and constructing a bridge between the two tracts over the Thoroughfare Gap road. (GB, plate XX)

1802. TJ bought 101.25 acres on northern boundary of Montalto, for which he paid 9419.16. (AlCDB, I. 165-67; MB 5 Oct. 1802; TJ plats, Nichols, nos. 518-19)

1815. TJ gave the above 101.25 acres to his granddaughter Anne Cary Bankhead. It became part of the Bankhead's farm, Carlton. ( AlCDB, XIX, 322-24)

1826. TJ apparently owned Montalto at his death, when it became part of his estate administered by his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph. The next owner has not yet been determined.

Documentary Sources

1771 March. 24. "Charles Carter of Corotoman (Lancaster) v. Edward Carter (Albemarle). Bring petn. for 10,000 acres of land Albem. on South West mountains on the waters of Rivanna and Hardware rivers. Patd. by Carter father of def. This is in order to dock the entail of the lands, for which def. is to give me as much of his nearest mountain as can be seen from mine, and 100 yds. beyond the line of sight agreed before Capt. Wm. Burton. " (MB 1771, legal section)

1774 Oct. 3. Preliminary survey plat made for TJ by Anderson Bryan. (in ViU:Edgehill-Randolph Papers)

1776 Sep. 15. TJ took barometrical observations at two points at Monticello and two on Montalto ("a spring on the N.E. side of Montalto" and "the top of Montalto"). From these he calculated the elevation of Montalto as 280 feet higher than Monticello and 792.17 feet above the Rivanna River. The Montalto spring was 30.2575 feet lower than Monticello. (MB 1776, miscellaneous section) Circa 1811 TJ recalculated the elevations by a different method--using the same barometric readings--and got 872'-2" instead of 792'. (Weather Memorandum Book, p. 58-59, Library of Congress) NOTE: Rivanna is at about 300'; correct elevation of Montalto is 1,280'.

1777 Oct. 15. 'Left with T. Garth for Edward Carter t90 in part of t190. to which the 483 acres of land I bought of him were valued by N. Lewis & J. Coles. " (MB 1777)

1777 Oct. 17. Deed Edward and Sally Carter to TJ, for the sum of k190, of 483 acres, part of tract of 9,350 acres granted to John Carter 28 Sep. 1730 and devised by him in fee tail to Edward, who owned it in fee simple after Act of Assembly abolishing entail. Deed gives metes and bounds. (AlCDB, VII, 132-33) Clerk's note: "Enclosed to Mr. Jefferson the 22d. day of April 1794. "

‘’1778 Aug. 2.’’ "Sent by Dr. Gilmer to E. Carter k104-0-6 in full of my note for the land bought of him." (MB 1778)

1778 Nov. 5. "To inclose all my lands on the S. W. side of the Thoroughfare road following the meandersof the road and in other places following the line would take in about 400 acres of land, & require a fence about 1323 poles long. Suppose this to be a dry stone fence 23.1. thick at bottom. 19 I. thick at top & 4 f. 3 I. high, every perch length of such a fence is very nearly 5. perch of work. Of course there will be 6615 perch. I think a hand will lay 10 perch of brick work a day having his stone brought to the place. One hand then would lay the whole in 661 1/2 days = 110 1/2 weeks = 2 years--1 month--2 weeks." (GB79)

1778 Nov. 12. "Placing the Theodolite on the top of the house, the Eastern spur of the High mountain intersects the Horizon 190 Westward of Willis's mountain. Note the observation was made on the intersection of the ground (not the trees) with the horizon. ' (GBBO)

Late 1770s. TJ prepared a number of designs for observation towers for the summit of Montalto, 100 and more feet high (including a proposal for a 200-foot column). (Nichols, nos. 65, 66, 93, 126) NOTE: WLB thinks these probably date after the purchase of Gibbs in Dec. 1778.

c1790? "485. acres (0.) part of 9350. acres granted to John Carter by patent bearing date Sep. 28. 1730. who by his will dated and recorded in devised the same to his son Edward in fee tail; who becoming seised in fee simple by virtue of the act of assembly declaring tenants in fee tail to stand seised in fee simple, he sold & conveyed the said 483. acres, part of the said 9350. to Thos. Jefferson by deed dated Oct. 17. 1777. & recorded in Albemarle. * (N-526, heretofore called Land Roll 1788)

‘’1796 Dec. 21.’’ "Thos. Garth & James Kerr value the difference in the exchange of the small portions of land between N. M. Lewis & myself at t16-15 boot in his favor." (NB) TJ acquired 27.5 acres on Monticello's western boundary from Nicholas M. Lewis, in exchange for 12.5 acres of the Montalto tract. (AlCDB, XIII, 130; T3 plat, Nichols. no. 517)

c1800? "General ideas for the improvement of Monticello.... The spring on Montalto either to be brought to Monticello by pipes or to fall over steps of stairs in cascade, made visible at Monticello through a vista.... The North side of Monticello below the Thoroughfare roundabout quite down to the river, and all Montalto above the thoroughfare to be converted into park & riding grounds, connected at the Thoroughfare by a bridge, open, under which the public road may be made to pass so as not to cut off the communication between the lower & upper park grounds." (GB, plate XX)

1802 Oct. 5. "Inclosed.. . to Gibson & Jefferson.. .2. draughts in favr. Ben. Brown 285.83 Thos. Wells 133.33 which last two are this day made and inclosed to Brown and Wells in full paiment for the lands I bought of them." (MB) TJ bought two parcels of 61.25 and 40 acres bordering northern boundary of Montalto. (AlCDB, I, 165- 6;47-X, TJ plats, Nichols, nos. 518-19) See 1815.

1815. TJ gave the two tracts purchased in 1802 to his granddaughter Anne Cary Bankhead. (AlCDB, XIX, 322-24)

Further Sources

  • HB
  • Memorandum Book.
  • AlCDB
  • Albemarle County Deed Book
  • Frederick D. Nichols, Thomas Jefferson's Architectural


  1. The mountain's official name is "Carters Mountain" (although some sources use "Carter's Mountain") as per the current Geodetic survey.
  2. Susan Brown Craig, Living on the Mountain:A Memoir, Mechanicsburg, PA: Burnt Tree Press, 2006, 1-2.
  3. Ibid, 2-3.
  4. Ibid, 4-5.
  5. Ibid, 11-13.
  6. [[Short Title List|MB 1771, legal section
  7. MB 1776, miscellaneous section
  8. Albemarle County Deed Book, VII, 132-33<ref> Instead of docking the entail, Jefferson apparently had to wait for the 1777 Virginia law abolishing entails (which he drafted) before he could obtain title to the land. He paid £190 for it.<ref>''MB'' 15 Oct. 1777, 1:452; 2 Aug. 1778, 1:468.</li> <li id="_note-8">[[#_ref-8|↑]] [[Short Title List|Betts, ''Garden Book'']] 79.</li> <li id="_note-9">[[#_ref-9|↑]] Nichols, Nos. [ 65], [ 66], [ 93], 126.</li> <li id="_note-10">[[#_ref-10|↑]] MB 21 Dec. 1796, ; AlCDB, XIII, 130; TJ plat, Nichols, no. 517)</li></ol></ref>