Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Visiting Monticello (or, at least Thom Jefferson’s new parking lot)

From the road.

Feeding off the local Wi-Fi from the Loretta Lynn Kitchen somewhere between Nashville and Memphis. Here's a dispatch I wrote last night from a mountainside in eastern Tennessee.


Started out from Baltimore today on the family road trip. Got around the DC beltway in record time and headed straight for Charlottesville, VA -- home of Monticello.

Between my wife’s love of architecture and my own love of history, we were looking forward to showing our three kids the pride of Virginian Neoclassicism. We’d been through the old house years ago back when we started dating; I like to think Thom had something to do with convincing her that I was an alright guy. Back in those days we were even more strapped for cash than we are now, which made our discovery at entering the new ‘Monticello Welcome Center’ such a harsh surprise.

Turns out that for two adults and three elementary schoolers to check out the old joint would cost about $65.

For those of you, like me, who are bad with numbers, that’s: sixty-five dollars.

Are you kidding?

Isn’t Thomas Jefferson the father of our ‘free’ public school system? You think old Thom might think $20 a head and 8 bucks a tyke is a bit much?

I understand, I understand. They do have to pay for the new welcome center building (where you can buy a Thom Jefferson decanter set and any number of Declaration of Independence replicas). But really. The irony.

The cruelty.

It is just plain wrong to price folks out of their own history. My wife lost it when the ranger wouldn’t even let us visit Jefferson’s grave.

Is this how little we, as a people, respect our history? To turn a president’s house into a giftshop for the entitled and to charge a thief’s ransom to travelers too tired to turn around and leave?

So we ate lunch in the parking lot and taught the kids about the real meaning of democracy.

- Written on Cumberland Mtn. near Crossville, TN on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 9:24PM

1 comment:

  1. "I understand, I understand. They do have to pay for the new welcom center building."
    As a Charlottesville resident, let me chip in my opinion that they didn't need to *build* the new welcome center building. The whole operation was perfectly presentable and nice as it was.
    I'm really outraged. I haven't been there since they put this up. . .I can't remember what the old admission was (Local residents pay less, for some reason) but I think it was more like ten. (All the Jefferson paraphenalia was available then too.)
    The docents are amazingly knowledgeable. . .they don't do a canned speech, it's different each time, depending on who you get. It's really sad that they are making this great experience so expensive.


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