Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1, 2015

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XII, Number 6                                                             June 1, 2015

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS:  When I was doing the research for Saving Monticello in 1999 and 2000, I had several meetings with Susan Stein, the renowned curator on Jefferson’s Mountain. We met in her small office located upstairs on the second floor of Thomas Jefferson’s Essay in Architecture. The rest of the rooms up there—bedrooms in Thomas Jefferson’s day—remained empty and unvisited as the second floor (including the Dome Room) was closed to the public.

The rooms upstairs remained all but empty for years after Susan moved her office elsewhere on the property. But several years ago, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation began restoring several of the upstairs rooms and offering special tours. Then, on May 2, the Foundation announced what’s being called a “milestone” in their mission to restore Monticello to what the place looked like when Thomas Jefferson lived there.

Called “The Mountaintop Project,” the milestone consists of the full restoration and furnishing of nine upstairs rooms. Those are the bedrooms where Thomas Jefferson’s grown daughter Martha Randolph and her eleven children lived after Jefferson’s wife (also Martha) had died and his daughter Martha—known as Patsy as a child—brought her family to her childhood home to live.

 “It’s the first time in ninety-two years we’ve seen the upstairs rooms fully furnished,” said Leslie Greene Bowman, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Those newly restored and furnished bedrooms are where Patsy and her children moved when  her father retired from the presidency in 1809 and came back to Monticello to live there full time.
Martha and the children were living there when she was forced to sell Monticello in 1831, five years after Thomas Jefferson’s death, to try to pay off the debts she inherited from her father—a story I tell in detail in Saving Monticello.

The Mountaintop Project also includes the recreation of two log cabins along Mulberry Row (where Uriah Levy’s mother Rachel is buried) where John and Priscilla Hemings, an enslaved couple, lived, as well as a workshop. This “allows us to tell the stories of the family, servants, and slaves who lived and worked in those rooms and gives a fuller picture of what life at Monticello was really like,” Leslie Bowman said.

The main benefactor of the Mountaintop Project, David M. Rubenstein, the co-founder of the Carlyle Group, made a big announcement at a dinner on May at Monticello: that he was donating $10 million to Monticello, matching the amount he gave the Foundation in 2013.

In 2013, Rubenstein told The Washington Post, he met with Leslie Bowman at Monticello, and—noticing that some rehab work needed to be done—said, “I’m happy to help in some way What would it take to fix it?”

“She said it would probably take about $20 million,” Rubenstein said. “I said, ‘Okay, let me give you ten, see what progress you make, and then if it works out, I’ll give you another ten.’”

“They did a very good job on the first ten,” he said, “and now this is the second ten.”

To which Bowman replied: “I’m almost speechless with excitement.”

EVENTS:  Here’s a rundown on my June events, two of which deal with my book, Lafayette: Idealist General, in conjunction with the visit in June of the replica ship L’Hermione, which Lafayette sailed on his second trip to the U.S. in 1780.

  • Tuesday, June 9 – At 7:00 p.m. I’ll be introducing a film screening of the one-act play, Lafayette, at the Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The historic building, which serves as Alexandria’s History Museum, is located at 201 South Washington Street. We’ll have a Q&A after the screening along with a book signing. Info: 703-746-4994
  • Saturday, June 13 – 2:00 p.m. talk on Francis Scott Key and book signing at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., 801 K Street, N.W. at Mount Vernon Square in Downtown D.C. Free and open to the public. Info, 202-249-3955
  • Sunday, June 14 – 2:00 p.m. talk on Saving Monticello and book signing at historic Unison Store, 21028 Unison Road in Unison, Virginia, here in Western Loudoun County, Va. Free and open to the public. Info:
  • Saturday, June 20 – 2:00 p.m. talk and book signing on Lafayette at historic Oakwood near Warrenton, Virginia. For info on this fund-raising event for the Mosby Heritage Area Association, call 540-687-6681 or go to

If you’d like to arrange an event for any of my books, email  For more details on other upcoming events, go to, the “Author Events” page on my website,

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift Ideas:  If you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at Or go to to order copies through Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed.