Montalto

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. It is located about three miles southeast of Charlottesville and south/southwest of Monticello being separated from that mountain by the "Thoroughfare Gap." The elevation is 1,278 feet and it rises 410 feet above Monticello.

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.

Chronology

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."

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

1777 Oct. 17. Jefferson became legal owner of 483 acres of Montalto.[6]

1796. Jefferson gave Nicholas H. Lewis 12.5 acres of Montalto in exchange for 27.5 acres on Monticello's western boundary.[7]

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.

Primary Source References[8]

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. "[9]

1774 Oct. 3. Preliminary survey plat made for TJ by Anderson Bryan.[10]