Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built

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University of Virginia Press, 2003 - Architecture - 303 pages
"When Thomas Jefferson died on the Fourth of July 1826 -- the nation's fiftieth birthday -- he was more than $100,000 in debt. Forced to sell thousands of acres of his lands and nearly all of his furniture and artwork, in 1831 his heirs bid a final goodbye to Monticello itself. The house their illustrious patriarch had lovingly designed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, his beloved "essay in architecture," was sold to the highest bidder. "Saving Monticello" offers the first complete post-Jefferson history of this American icon and reveals the amazing story of how one Jewish family saved the house that became a family home to them for 89 years -longer than it ever was to the Jeffersons. Levy discovered that Jefferson's mansion had fallen into a miserable state of decay. Acquiring the ruined estate and committing his considerable resources to its renewal, he began what became a tumultuous nine-decade relationship between his family and Jefferson's home. After passing from Levy control at the time of the commodore's death, Monticello fell once more into hard times, cattle being housed on its first floor and grain in its once elegant upper rooms. Again, remarkably, a member of the Levy family came to the rescue. Uriah's nephew, the aptly named Jefferson Monroe Levy, a three-term New York congressman and wealthy real estate and stock speculator, gained possession in 1879. After Jefferson Levy poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into its repair and upkeep, his chief reward was to face a vicious national campaign, with anti-Semitic overtones, to expropriate the house and turn it over to the government. Only after the campaign had failed, with Levy declaring that he would sell Monticello only when the White House itself was offered for sale, did Levy relinquish it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923" --Adapted from Amazon.com.

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About the author (2003)

Journalist and historian Marc Leepson of Middleburg, Virginia, is the author of seven books, most recently Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership From the Idealist General. His other books include Flag: An American Biography and Desperate Engagement, a history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy. He has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Preservation Magazine, Smithsonian, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun and is a contributor to the Encyclopedia Americana.

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