President Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Va.
By Brett Zongker Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Onetime slave quarters will be recreated at Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello, and more of the Declaration of Independence writer's living quarters will be restored using a $10 million gift from a philanthropist who has a keen interest in the nation's history.
Mulberry Row, the community where slaves lived on the Virginia plantation in Charlottesville, will be reconstructed with the funds. Monticello officials plan to rebuild at least two log buildings where slaves worked and lived and will restore Jefferson's original road scheme on the plantation. The gift will also fund the restoration of the second and third floors of Jefferson's home that are now mostly empty and will replace aging infrastructure.
Businessman David Rubenstein, the co-CEO of The Carlyle Group private equity firm, announced his gift on Friday night. It is one of the largest ever to the Monticello estate.
Archaeologists and historians designing the project will follow a drawing Jefferson made in 1796, describing the material and dimensions of the log structures along Mulberry Row. Over the next two years, they plan to rebuild a structure described as being among "servants' houses of wood, with wooden chimneys and earth floors." The 12-by-14-foot dwelling would have housed a single family, representing a shift from barrack-style housing.
It's believed to have housed members of the extended Hemings family, who held important positions at Monticello. Most historians believe Sally Hemings, a slave, had a relationship with the third president and that he was the father of her six children. In the recreated house, curators may also focus on the life of Hemings' younger brother John Hemings, who was a highly skilled joiner and cabinetmaker.
"By bringing back the place, we bring back the people, and we're able to put a face on slavery," said senior curator Susan Stein. "It's actually the lives of people."
Mr. Rubenstein told The Associated Press he has become a student of Jefferson in recent years since purchasing several copies of the Declaration of Independence and came to admire the man who wrote that "all men are created equal." Mr. Rubenstein visited Monticello about two months ago and decided he could help with projects the estate's trustees had planned to better tell Jefferson's story.
"I think it's important to tell people the good and the bad of American history, not only the things that we might like to hear," Mr. Rubenstein said. "And the bad of it is that as great as Jefferson was, nobody can deny that he was a slave owner."
The gift follows major donations Mr. Rubenstein has made to preserve U.S. history at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate and at the earthquake-damaged Washington Monument.
Leslie Green Bowman, the president and CEO of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, called Mr. Rubenstein's gift "transformational."