â€śYou'll find the marker for Saturday down in the basement,â€ť our guide said.
Work began on Monticello in 1768, slowly taking shape on a hilltop Jefferson explored as a boy. It was part of the Shadwell estate his father, Peter Jefferson, had established by 1740 with about 1,000 acres of farmland.
The elder Jefferson died in 1757, when his son was 14, and Shadwell was passed on to Thomas Jefferson when he came of age in 1764.
A portion of Monticello already was standing when the original Shadwell house burned in 1770. Jefferson built a new home for his mother and siblings, but he had other plans for himself.
â€śI have lately removed to the mountain,â€ť he wrote to a friend in early 1771. â€śI have here but one room, which, like the cobler's (sic), serves me for parlour for kitchen and hall. I may add, for bed chamber and study too.â€ť
Jefferson continued to expand and tweak Monticello's design for the next 40 years.
It still was relatively modest when he and his new bride, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, trudged up the hill through a blinding snowstorm â€” the snow was too deep for their phaeton, a type of sporty carriage â€” just days after their wedding in 1772. She only saw a portion of the work finished on Monticello, dying in 1782.
Monticello was all at once a home, a showcase, a farm and a laboratory. The garden supplied the household and served as a proving ground where Jefferson experimented with hundreds of varieties of plants from around the world.