The Genius of Jefferson
Charlottesville, VA | September 25-57, 2015
In September 2015, Aspen Across America and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation partnered to create an extraordinary weekend set against the backdrop of Jefferson’s magnificent estate Monticello in its autumnal splendor. This excursion offered participants unprecedented access to Jefferson's private world alongside in-depth discussions with gardeners, chefs, historians, wine-makers, and architects steeped in the Founding Father's legacy. Read more about the program's themes and ideas on the Aspen Institute blog.
Author of the Declaration of Independence, third President, first Secretary of State, and founder of America’s first public university, Jefferson was also an avid oenophile, gardener, architect, and farmer, whose private life and occupations deeply informed his statecraft and vision for the young Republic.
Aspen Institute guests enjoyed a Jeffersonian "Feast of Reason" (and of guinea hen) prepared by James Beard Award-winning chef James Stitt, using fresh okra, butter beans, and other herbs and vegetables from Jefferson's own garden.
Gabriele Rausse, Monticello’s current Director of Gardens and Grounds, and father of the modern Virginia wine industry, was on hand to discuss Jefferson's debt-inducing devotion to the vintages of France, as well as the Founding Father's attempts to make wine the national beverage of the United States.
Peter Hatch, retired Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello and author of “A Rich Spot of Earth": Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello, demonstrated how Jefferson saw his kitchen garden as a horticultural laboratory.
Thomas Woltz, owner of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, brought the lost vista of Jefferson's 5,000 acres of working farmland to life. Woltz's has forged a body of work, that includes New York’s Hudson Yards, St. Louis’s Citygarden, and Houston’s Memorial Park.
Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor, author of The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, discussed the inextricable bond between Jefferson's civilized lifestyle and the slavery which supported it. He was joined by J. Jefferson Looney, Editor in Chief of the Jefferson Papers.
After touring Jefferson's "Academical Village" at the University of Virginia with Richard Guy Wilson, Commonwealth Professor and Chair of the Department of Architectural History, guests discussed the future of higher education in the first of the Lawn's ten Pavilions, with the Buckner W. Clay Dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Science Ian Baucom, Taylor Professor of Politics and Vice Provost for Global Affairs Jeff Legro, and historian Alan Taylor.