American Icons: Monticello

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The home of America’s aspirations and deepest contradictions.

Monticello feature new

Monticello is home renovation run amok. Thomas Jefferson was as passionate about building his house as he was about founding the United States; he designed Monticello to the fraction of an inch and never stopped changing it. Yet Monticello was also a plantation worked by slaves, some of them Jefferson’s own children. Today his white and black descendants still battle over who can be buried at Monticello. It was trashed by college students, saved by a Jewish family, and celebrated by FDR. With Stephen Colbert, filmmaker James Ivory, and artist Maira Kalman.

(Originally aired October 22, 2010)

Monticello Update: 

Monticello plans to re-create or restore spaces where Thomas Jefferson's slaves worked and lived. This $35 million project includes the room where Sally Hemings likely lived, which was turned into a restroom in a 1940s renovation.

American Icons: Monticello was produced by Amanda Aronczyk. The Jefferson family graveyard story was produced by Ann Heppermann. The actor David Strathairn was the voice of Thomas Jefferson. David Krasnow edited the show.
Music was provided by David Prior, with John Matthias for Small Design Firm, and can also be heard at Monticello's interactive exhibition, Boisterous Sea of Liberty.

Music Playlist

  1. Tennessee Waltz

    Artist: Patti Page
    Album: Tennessee Waltz
    Label: P&R
  2. Chury Churuj

    Artist: Iva Bittova & Vladimir Vaclavek
    Album: White Inferno (Bile Inferno)
    Label: Indies Records
  3. Shake Your Hips

    Artist: The Rolling Stones
    Album: Exile on Main Street
    Label: Capitol
  4. Nothing Owed

    Artist: Bonobo
    Album: Dial “M” for Monkey
    Label: Ninja Tune
  5. Telescope

    Artist: Mountains
    Album: Choral
    Label: Thrill Jockey
  6. Balloon Escapes

    Artist: Carter Burwell
    Album: Before Night Falls
    Label: Blue Thumb