Monday, October 3, 2016

October 2016

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XIII, Number 10                                                          October 1, 2016

THE ROTUNDA:  The Rotunda, the iconic, Thomas Jefferson-designed centerpiece of the University of Virginia, has been undergoing extensive renovations for the last two years. The building, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (as is Monticello) has just reopened after $58 million worth of repairs and restoration.

Jefferson, inspired by the Pantheon in ancient Rome, worked on the design for the building late in life, in his seventies. It was completed in 1826, not long after Jefferson died. Classes were held in the building until the 1930s.

In recent years it became apparent that extensive repairs were necessary. That work, finished late this summer, includes a new domed copper roof (painted white); repaired marble columns, updated electrical systems; the addition of a 6,000-square-foot underground mechanical room; and the restoration of the eye-catching round, black Rotunda clock.

Inside, for the first time in decades, students are taking classes in newly restored rooms and studying in lounges in the Dome Room. The historical display room on the ground floor remains for visitors. A new exhibit showcases a chemical hearth that workers discovered in the wall of the Lower East Oval Room, as well as other artifacts uncovered during the renovation.


The Rotunda gets a brief mention Saving Monticello in the context of the disastrous fire that gutted the place in 1895. As I wrote, the University hired McKim, Mead and White, one of the nation's top architectural firms, to rebuild the Rotunda. Stanford White, the premier American architect of the late 19th century, took charge of the project.
While White was in Charlottesville working on the Rotunda restoration, Jefferson Levy, the owner of Monticello, made an appointment to see him. Levy told White that he was considering adding some rooms to Monticello and wanted him to draw up plans to do so. White declined. That was Jefferson Levy’s only attempt to alter Thomas Jefferson’s design of Monticello.

A few years later, in April 1899, in commemoration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, Jefferson Levy made a gift to the University: a large regulator clock for its library, which was then in the Rotunda. Levy also donated a device that electronically controlled the bells in all the University’s lecture rooms.

EVENTS We now have a title, subtitle, cover, and pub date for my next book, the first-ever biography of Barry Sadler. Green Beret Balladeer: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler from the Vietnam War and Pop Stardom to Murder and an Unsolved, Violent Death will be published officially on May 7. It’s on Amazon at

Here are my October events:

  • A talk on the subject of Saving Monticello: the post-Jefferson history of the house, for the guides and Foundation staff at Monticello on Friday, October 7 
  • A book signing open to the public at the Monticello Gift Shop on Saturday, October 7, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 
  • I’ll be the Keynote Speaker at the 20th National War of 1812 Symposium on Saturday, October 22 at the University of Baltimore. The talk will be on Francis Scott Key and the writing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the subject of my book, What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life.
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Please email me if you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello—or for any of my other books, including What So Proudly We Hailed and Lafayette: Idealist General, my concise bio of the Marquis de Lafayette—at For more details on other upcoming events, go to  the “Author Events” page on

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

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