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Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built
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Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House That Jefferson Built

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  144 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
When Thomas Jefferson died on the Fourth of July 1826 -- the nation's fiftieth birthday -- he was more than $100,000 in debt. Forced to sell thousands of acres of his lands and nearly all of his furniture and artwork, in 1831 his heirs bid a final goodbye to Monticello itself. The house their illustrious patriarch had lovingly designed in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virgin ...more
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published October 23rd 2001 by Free Press
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Alan Kaplan
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Fascinating book on the history of Monticello. When Thomas Jefferson died, he left his family with a debt of over $100,000. His entire estate, including Monticello had to be liquidated by his surviving daughter. It is hard to believe, but true, that no one wanted to buy Monticello or most of his personal possessions. The state of Virginia and the federal government refused to buy the property. Uriah Levy, a Jewish officer in the US Navy bought the property and his family maintained the property ...more
Mar 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-stuff
Fascinating preservation story, which is not a bit like many other preservation stories. Well-researched and well written.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very detailed book about the Levy (pronounced Levee) family's occupation of Monticello. It shows how our young country was incapable of handling anything like a historically significant building in the years after Jefferson's death or of being able to take care of his daughter who had lived in the house and was poor. And, it took about 100 years for our country to be able to do so. The Levy family (very wealthy New York Jews) took over the house and maintained it off and on during the 19th and ...more
Jun 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Sloppy editing and uneven timelines make this book somewhat hard to follow. The detailed accounts of documented activity can read like a bogged down social register and you may find yourself asking, "Why did the author think this was important?" But the answer, on every page, is clearly, "because these people helped save Monticello." Skim the mini paragraphs near the end itemizing Jefferson Levy's rigorous travel schedule and focus on the big picture. Uriah Levy (pronounced "leh-vee") and then h ...more
Feb 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look into the history and owners of Thomas Jefferson's home from Jefferson, himself, through to the present owner, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

Many people may assume that when Jefferson died on July 4, 1826 the house was left to some preservation trust. This is not the case. When Thomas Jefferson passed away, he was over $100,000 (approx. 2 million dollars by today's standards) in debt and Monticello was sold.

Over the years, there were a number of owners and caretakers
Oct 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Very well-researched and presented story of what happened to Monticello after Thomas Jefferson's death. A colorful family including an iconoclastic Navy commander and his nephew, a New York financial speculator, purchased and kept up Jefferson's home during many years in which no one else wanted it, and during which it would certainly have gone to ruin. Then, a vehement campaign on the part of a disgruntled woman, which may have been partially anti-Semitic in intent, browbeat the owner, Jefferso ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting book of history on many levels. The history of the house is interesting enough, but the intrigues of ownership are really amazing. Reading about the attitude and ineptitude of the US government in relation to owning, maintaining and restoring this historical jewel was rather shocking. Like Mount Vernon, it took a private group to finally purchase the house to keep it from disintegrating back into the Virginia soil. A great read!
Keli Wright
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I heard about about this book on the Diane Rehm show website and then found it at my local library. I really enjoyed reading about this. I had no idea all of this happened with Monticello. It was so interesting. I am ready to go visit Monticello now and fun fact I did not know until the end, the author is from Middleburg, VA my father's home town.
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I found this an interesting, but confusing read.
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
very interesting--I am certainly glad the home and grounds have been preserved and are accessible to the public--we enjoyed our visit there this summer and 8 years ago as well
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story of presevation, litigation, and social/political influence on private property. At times hard to read, but worth finishing.
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm marking this "read," although to be completely honest, I didn't quite finish it. It's rare for me to get within 50 or so pages of finishing a book and not actually read to the end, but I just couldn't do it. The book started out quite promisingly - the early chapters about Jefferson's death, his debts, and what happened to the house after that were quite interesting - but things started to fall apart for me around Chapter 3. This was when the author started putting in detail after detail abo ...more
Doug Ebeling
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting account of the Jewish American family that rescued Monticello from ruin in the 1800s and then were pilloried and slandered by an anti-semitic wife of a Congressman who tried to wrest ownership from them to the government. Not the best written book I've read, but the history here is so interesting that I forged through.
Chris Jarred
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting book, if not terribly well written.
Jared Manning
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting story about what happened to Monticello after Jefferson's death. Answered a lot of questions I had when visiting the mansion.
Feb 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I guess I was hoping for more specifics about the house and grounds than about the family's history (even though that is in the title....

It fills in some gaps for those interested in things Jefferson.
This book is obviously well researched, and I commend the author for that. But the sentence structure was very hard to read sometimes. I found myself rereading two or three sentences on every page because of the wording.

The beginning of the book was a bit confusing, as well, because of all the family lineage. There are family trees in the back for the Levy and Jefferson families, but I didn't know that until I had already finished the book. Had they been placed up front, it would've been more he
Anne Powell
This is the story of Monticello post-Jefferson. The book is interesting and informative. If I have a complaint, it's that the Kindle version, which I read, was not very well done. There are constant long blocks of text throughout the book and many grammatical and spacing errors. That said, I still enjoyed learning about the history of Monticello's restoration.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it
It was an interesting read up to a point. Near the end of the book when there was a fight to have the owner of Monticello to sell the house to the government, there were a number of facts that were incorrect, that a good editor would have found.
Jul 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's an interesting story with a lot of interesting connections to our history as a country, but this guy was way too fond of lists and recounting all comments made in committee meetings.
Kellie S.
Nov 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well researched. Interesting enough to finish, but could have been much shorter. Somewhat confusing at times.
Eric Haseltine
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Some interesting history, intermingled with a lot of not very interesting history
May 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this is not the best written book on Monticello it helps explain more of the history and mystique of this beautiful home.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it liked it
Well researched, interesting story of the Levy family who literally saved Monticello. Probably too well researched - the story was great, but the level of detail was onerous.
Jul 14, 2011 rated it liked it
interesting and informative. Read it before a planned visit to Monticello.
rated it it was ok
Apr 06, 2010
rated it really liked it
Aug 12, 2011
rated it it was amazing
Feb 02, 2010
Scott Fuchs
rated it really liked it
Nov 29, 2014
Robin B. Schoch
rated it liked it
May 26, 2017
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Historian and journalist Marc Leepson is the author of nine books, including Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler (Stackpole, 2017); What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life (Palgrave, 2014); Lafayette: Lessons in Leadership from the Idealist General, a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette (Palgrave, 2011); Desperate Engagement, the story ...more