"Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down one of my favorite amusements."
April 13, 2009 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Happy birthday, Mr. Jefferson! Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd US president, was born on this day in 1743 (actually, April 2nd, but then the calendar changed in 1752). Certainly celebrations and examinations of his leadership and politics and philosophy and inventions are warranted, but-damn, that man was amazing with a drafting compass. TJ's greatest hits: Monticello, Poplar Forest, The University
posted by njbradburn (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Woot! I bike through the grounds of UVA almost every day. It really is beautiful.
posted by taliaferro at 8:04 PM on April 13, 2009

If by "amazing" you mean a kitschy Palladian pastiche, then sure, amazing!
posted by signal at 8:06 PM on April 13, 2009

heh - we'll have to agree to disagree on this one
posted by taliaferro at 8:07 PM on April 13, 2009

Clay Jenkinson does a great job of being Jefferson in the Thomas Jefferson Hour. His weekly podcasts are free.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:15 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Palladian Pastiche" is a nice turn of phrase, but in referring to Monticello as "Kitsch," I wonder if you have it confused with one of those 21st-Century McMansion developments so popular in Suburbia? "Aesthetically deficient?" Check. "Imitates superficial appearance of art?" Check. "Trite?" "Crass?" "Mass-produced?"
posted by njbradburn at 8:28 PM on April 13, 2009

Having grown up in Virginia, I've been to Monticello several times. It's an absolutely beautiful house and with an amazing surrounding landscape. I never get tired of going, thank you for reminding me that I need to plan a trip out there again this spring. Signal, have you visited Monticello before?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:26 PM on April 13, 2009

Signal, have you visited Monticello before?

Yep. I've also been to some of Palladio's works that it 'references'.
posted by signal at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2009

At UVA, no speech, talk or presentation is complete without a completely out-of-context, or at best tangentially relevant, Jefferson quote. Here's one of my favorites: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal vigilance against all forms of tyranny over the mind of Man."
posted by killdevil at 9:58 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eh, I bollixed it and good: the correct quote is "I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of Man..."
posted by killdevil at 9:59 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

More good news: there's a new movie coming out that wants to tell the story of Jefferson for a new generation.
posted by Dmenet at 10:00 PM on April 13, 2009

I actually did my MA thesis on the political philosophy of Jefferson. He's an amazing writer to read - regardless of what you think about what he has to say. The Thomas Jefferson Digital Archive is an amazing resource if you are interested. The best thing about it is that many of the documents are available online in their original form - that is, in the man's own hand. I find this to be hugely insightful, especially if you look at where he's scratched out words and changed his mind on his wording.
posted by strixus at 10:05 PM on April 13, 2009

If by "amazing" you mean a kitschy Palladian pastiche, then sure, amazing!

I love the UVA campus.

If that makes me middlebrow, then so be it.
posted by jayder at 10:39 PM on April 13, 2009

I love the UVA campus.

Nobody who really loves it would call it a "campus".
posted by LionIndex at 11:22 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

twoleftfeet: I once spent a few days with Clay Jenkinson. He is one of the people I am very glad to call a gentleman and a scholar. He may not be a public intellectual on a national scale, but he's a fine example of a regional one.
posted by honest knave at 12:35 AM on April 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. Jefferson!

After a family visit at the age of 12 to Monticello and Charlottesville, I decided then and there that I would spend my four years of college at The University. Every day, walking the Lawn to get to class no matter how hung over I was, I was reminded of Mr. Jefferson's intellectual curiosity, his respect for education and his love of Gusbergers.

posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:59 AM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal vigilance against all forms of tyranny over the mind of Man*."

*Except slavery.

And for this single reason, Jefferson is overrated.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:52 AM on April 14, 2009

We still have slavery, you know. We just don't call it that anymore.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:06 AM on April 14, 2009

You are right Henry and it is still as wrong as it was in Jefferson's time. Even Jefferson knew it:

"[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference!"

- Notes on the State of Virginia
posted by Pollomacho at 5:41 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yep. I've also been to some of Palladio's works that it 'references'.

"One might enumerate the items of high civilization, as it exists in other countries, which are absent from the texture of American life, until it should become a wonder to know what was left. No State, in the European sense of the word, and indeed barely a specific national name. No sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church, no clergy, no army, no diplomatic service, no country gentlemen, no palaces, no castles, nor manors, nor old country-houses, nor parsonages, nor thatched cottages nor ivied ruins; no cathedrals, nor abbeys, nor little Norman churches; no great Universities nor public schools—no Oxford, nor Eton, nor Harrow; no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures, no political society, no sporting class—no Epsom nor Ascot! Some such list as that[44] might be drawn up of the absent things in American life—especially in the American life of forty years ago, the effect of which, upon an English or a French imagination, would probably as a general thing be appalling. The natural remark, in the almost lurid light of such an indictment, would be that if these things are left out, everything is left out. The American knows that a good deal remains; what it is that remains—that is his secret, his joke, as one may say. It would be cruel, in this terrible denudation, to deny him the consolation of his national gift, that "American humour" of which of late years we have heard so much." Henry James, Hawthorne
posted by njbradburn at 6:11 AM on April 14, 2009

I grew up in C'ville and Jefferson's architecture is beautiful (regardless of how much he borrowed/was influenced). Though, I think all his creations of brick and stone, portico and pillar, are overshadowed by his philosophical and legal achievements. He had a genius mind, but one that was always changing, as evident in his construction of Monticello which was essentially on permanent remodeling most of his life. For everything that people point to so as to reduce him in stature, he was and is still a great figure in the history of America, if not the world. Was he perfect? No, but we are fortunate to have had him when we did, for what he did.
posted by Atreides at 6:17 AM on April 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't forget The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom.
posted by jonp72 at 7:36 AM on April 14, 2009

I guess I don't understand how "referencing" other architectural work takes away from his own.
posted by deliquescent at 10:45 AM on April 14, 2009

I met Thomas Jefferson once. He smelled like cheese.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:03 PM on April 14, 2009

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