Jefferson's mountain now open for tours

Sunday, May 14, 2006

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- A mountain that rises more than 400 feet above the rooftops of Thomas Jefferson's estate is now open for tours, offering visitors a new way to experience the legacy of the former president.

Montalto, also called Browns Mountain, offers sweeping views of Jefferson's Monticello and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was once open to the public and served as home to many University of Virginia graduate students and others who lived along the mountain in quaint stone houses.

But in 2004, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation purchased the 330-acre Montalto property and the residents left.

Monticello has just started offering twice-daily tours of the mountain, with interpretive guides giving narratives that further explore the history of Jefferson and his ties to the area.

The tours are divided into three parts. Visitors first stop at a Monticello overlook, where guides will tell the story of Jefferson and his farms and offer a history of the area's settlers and topography.

The second part of the tour takes visitors to an area overlooking the University of Virginia and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, the guides describe Jefferson's role with the university and connection to the mountain. Jefferson had dreams of building lookout towers on Montalto and wanted to create waterfalls down its slopes, said Peter Hatch, director of gardens and grounds at Monticello.

"Jefferson had a lot of dreams for Montalto that never became reality," Hatch said.

The final stop on the tour gives visitors a view to the east as guides detail the history of winemaking in the region and talk about Jefferson's friends and neighbors.

The 90-minute tours run daily at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., weather permitting, through Oct. 31. Details at

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