Read Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built by Marc Leepson Online


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 VirginWhen 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. With a dramatic narrative sweep across generations, Marc Leepson vividly recounts the turbulent saga of this fabled estate. Twice the house came to the brink of ruin, and twice it was saved, by two different generations of the Levy family. United by a fierce love of country, they venerated the Founding Fathers for establishing a religiously tolerant and democratic nation where their family had thrived since the founding of the Georgia colony in 1733, largely free of the persecutions and prejudices of the Old World.Monticello's first savior was the mercurial U.S. Navy Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy, a colorful and controversial sailor, celebrated for his successful campaign to ban flogging in the Navy and excoriated for his stubborn willfulness. Prompted in 1833 by the Marquis de Lafayette's inquiry about "the most beautiful house in America," Levy discovered that Jefferson's mansion had fallen into a miserable state of decay. Acquiring the ruined estate and committing his considerableresources 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.Rich with memorable, larger-than-life characters, beginning with Thomas Jefferson himself, the story is cast with such figures as James Turner Barclay, a messianic visionary who owned the house from 1831 to 1834; the fiery Uriah Levy, he of the six courts-martial and teenage wife; the colorful Confederate Colonel Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, who controlled Monticello during the Civil War; and the eccentric, high-living, deal-making egoist Jefferson Monroe Levy. Pulling back the veil of history to reveal a story we thought we knew, "Saving Monticello" establishes this most American of houses as more truly reflective of the American experience than has ever been fully appreciated....

Title : Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780743201063
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 303 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

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

  • Alan Kaplan
    2019-03-13 10:14

    Fascinating book on the history of Monticello. When Thomas Jefferson died, he left his family with a debt of over $100,000. His entire estate, including Monticello had to be liquidated by his surviving daughter. It is hard to believe, but true, that no one wanted to buy Monticello or most of his personal possessions. The state of Virginia and the federal government refused to buy the property. Uriah Levy, a Jewish officer in the US Navy bought the property and his family maintained the property for almost 90 years. Essentially saving Monticello in the process. Along Mulberry Row, on the southern side of the house, there is a grave with Jewish dates of Uriah Levy's mother. During one if my visits to Monticello, I wondered why that sole grave was there, and just exactly who are these Levy's. In a strange, but true way, this book provides an incredibly interesting back story of Monticello's surprising history.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-04 09:19

    Fascinating preservation story, which is not a bit like many other preservation stories. Well-researched and well written.

  • Sonya
    2019-02-25 08:09

    A very detailed book about the Levy (pronounced Levee) family's occupation of Monticello. It shows how our young country was incapable of handling anything like a historically significant building in the years after Jefferson's death or of being able to take care of his daughter who had lived in the house and was poor. And, it took about 100 years for our country to be able to do so. The Levy family (very wealthy New York Jews) took over the house and maintained it off and on during the 19th and early 20th centuries (interrupted by the South's confiscation of a "Northerner's" home during the Civil War.Over the years, the Levy family have not received the credit and recognition due them for maintaining and preserving such an important residence. There was a degree of anti-Semitism to it and the fact that a private individual owned what should have been owned by the people of the country. However since the mid-1980s, they are now being praised. I have mixed feelings about it. I feel that Uriah Levy bought the house to not only be patriotic, but to further his social standing. Now the country would have to include him in history and he would have access to all the important people because of it. I consider it like buying into royalty or an ecclesiastical (simony) position. You get there because you're rich. Either way, we still have Monticello because of them and it is part of our young nation's history. And, I believe we learned from it.

  • Eileen
    2019-02-28 11:38

    Sloppy editing and uneven timelines make this book somewhat hard to follow. The detailed accounts of documented activity can read like a bogged down social register and you may find yourself asking, "Why did the author think this was important?" But the answer, on every page, is clearly, "because these people helped save Monticello." Skim the mini paragraphs near the end itemizing Jefferson Levy's rigorous travel schedule and focus on the big picture. Uriah Levy (pronounced "leh-vee") and then his nephew Jefferson, contributed significantly to the preservation of Monticello. Along the way, various do gooders and ne'er do wells got their hands in (sometimes at the same time). Though a preserved historical estate is not a strange idea to us now, Saving Monticello is an excellent illustration of just how strange that idea once was, and how we got to where we are: a country where the mere fact Thomas Jefferson once read a book in a chair makes it a noteworthy artifact. I'd definitely recommend reading this book before visiting (or revisiting) Monticello. Note the pictures, especially, in order to fully appreciate the condition in which you now view the home and its surrounding property.If anyone has any other recommended books on this subject, I'm game.

  • Amy
    2019-03-11 08:34

    A fascinating look into the history and owners of Thomas Jefferson's home from Jefferson, himself, through to the present owner, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.Many people may assume that when Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 the house was left to some preservation trust. This is not the case. When Thomas Jefferson passed away, he was over $100,000 (approx. 2 million dollars by today's standards) in debt and Monticello was sold.Over the years, there were a number of owners and caretakers, but none as significant (in my opinion) as the Levy family. Did you know that the Levy family owned Monticello longer than Jefferson did?This book gives [long overdue:] recognition to the stewardship of the Levy family. We owe a great deal of thanks to this family for their commitment to preserving this important monument for future generations. Along the way, author Marc Leepson, describes the many pitfalls that almost destroyed this fine home. One of the most interesting stories surrounds the home during the Civil War when the home was seized under the South's Sequestration Act. Check out this book to learn more and discover other interesting facts surrounding the history of Monticello.

  • Michelle
    2019-02-18 06:14

    Very well-researched and presented story of what happened to Monticello after Thomas Jefferson's death. A colorful family including an iconoclastic Navy commander and his nephew, a New York financial speculator, purchased and kept up Jefferson's home during many years in which no one else wanted it, and during which it would certainly have gone to ruin. Then, a vehement campaign on the part of a disgruntled woman, which may have been partially anti-Semitic in intent, browbeat the owner, Jefferson Levy, into putting the home up for sale, and it was eventually purchased by a historical foundation dedicated to Jefferson. But for years, the ownership and contributions of the Levy family were swept under the rug, until recent scholarship restored the "rest of the picture" of the saving of Monticello. Fascinating read.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-27 05:27

    This is a really interesting book of history on many levels. The history of the house is interesting enough, but the intrigues of ownership are really amazing. Reading about the attitude and ineptitude of the US government in relation to owning, maintaining and restoring this historical jewel was rather shocking. Like Mount Vernon, it took a private group to finally purchase the house to keep it from disintegrating back into the Virginia soil. A great read!

  • Keli Wright
    2019-02-24 06:23

    I heard about about this book on the Diane Rehm show website and then found it at my local library. I really enjoyed reading about this. I had no idea all of this happened with Monticello. It was so interesting. I am ready to go visit Monticello now and fun fact I did not know until the end, the author is from Middleburg, VA my father's home town.

  • Ann
    2019-03-13 04:15

    I found this an interesting, but confusing read.

  • Ruth
    2019-03-05 05:34

    very interesting--I am certainly glad the home and grounds have been preserved and are accessible to the public--we enjoyed our visit there this summer and 8 years ago as well

  • E
    2019-03-06 04:19

    Interesting story of presevation, litigation, and social/political influence on private property. At times hard to read, but worth finishing.

  • Karen
    2019-03-04 07:26

    I'm marking this "read," although to be completely honest, I didn't quite finish it. It's rare for me to get within 50 or so pages of finishing a book and not actually read to the end, but I just couldn't do it. The book started out quite promisingly - the early chapters about Jefferson's death, his debts, and what happened to the house after that were quite interesting - but things started to fall apart for me around Chapter 3. This was when the author started putting in detail after detail about Jefferson Levy's activities - when he went to Europe, when he came back, when he went to Monticello, who *else* went to Monticello, who they entertained there, etc - and none of it really advanced the narrative or was very interesting. There was the same sort of problem when he started describing the efforts by Mrs. Littleton and others to wrest Monticello away from Levy and acquire it for the nation. The book just plodded along with Leepson noting every hearing, every pamphlet, every newspaper article, etc. For such a short book it seemed to be taking forever to get to the end and I finally just didn't want to devote any more time to it.

  • Doug Ebeling
    2019-03-01 11:33

    Really interesting account of the Jewish American family that rescued Monticello from ruin in the 1800s and then were pilloried and slandered by an anti-semitic wife of a Congressman who tried to wrest ownership from them to the government. Not the best written book I've read, but the history here is so interesting that I forged through.

  • Chris Jarred
    2019-03-08 09:10

    Interesting book, if not terribly well written.

  • James
    2019-03-04 05:16

    I guess I was hoping for more specifics about the house and grounds than about the family's history (even though that is in the title....It fills in some gaps for those interested in things Jefferson.

  • Heathy
    2019-02-19 06:13

    This book is obviously well researched, and I commend the author for that. But the sentence structure was very hard to read sometimes. I found myself rereading two or three sentences on every page because of the wording.The beginning of the book was a bit confusing, as well, because of all the family lineage. There are family trees in the back for the Levy and Jefferson families, but I didn't know that until I had already finished the book. Had they been placed up front, it would've been more helpful.Interesting book, nonetheless.

  • Anne Powell
    2019-03-18 07:29

    This is the story of Monticello post-Jefferson. The book is interesting and informative. If I have a complaint, it's that the Kindle version, which I read, was not very well done. There are constant long blocks of text throughout the book and many grammatical and spacing errors. That said, I still enjoyed learning about the history of Monticello's restoration.

  • Edward
    2019-03-20 05:34

    It was an interesting read up to a point. Near the end of the book when there was a fight to have the owner of Monticello to sell the house to the government, there were a number of facts that were incorrect, that a good editor would have found.

  • Amanda
    2019-03-12 06:17

    It's an interesting story with a lot of interesting connections to our history as a country, but this guy was way too fond of lists and recounting all comments made in committee meetings.

  • Kellie S.
    2019-02-26 08:09

    Very well researched. Interesting enough to finish, but could have been much shorter. Somewhat confusing at times.

  • Eric Haseltine
    2019-03-08 04:19

    Some interesting history, intermingled with a lot of not very interesting history

  • Joanne
    2019-03-07 06:33

    While this is not the best written book on Monticello it helps explain more of the history and mystique of this beautiful home.

  • Bridget
    2019-03-11 09:24

    Well researched, interesting story of the Levy family who literally saved Monticello. Probably too well researched - the story was great, but the level of detail was onerous.

  • Becky
    2019-02-20 08:32

    interesting and informative. Read it before a planned visit to Monticello.