Nestled in the foothills of
the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Charlottesville is an area of unique
beauty and a bastion of history. Each year over half a million travelers visit
the Charlottesville area, enjoying the natural beauty of the mountains, Skyline
Drive, Monticello, and the University of Virginia (UVA).
For those who enjoy
history, there are few more richly endowed settings than Charlottesville. The
area is identified with Thomas Jefferson and his legacy of leadership and free
thought, which laid the foundation for what Charlottesville is today. The values
and traditions of Jefferson, the nationâ€™s third president and author of the
Declaration of Independence, are on display at his home, Monticello, and at the
University of Virginia.
It was in Charlottesville
that Thomas Jefferson designed and built his magnificent mountaintop home,
Monticello, and created what he described as his "academical village,"
the University of Virginia. It was Jeffersonâ€™s belief that the college
experience should take place within a place where shared learning infused daily
life. Plans were developed for ten Pavilions, which were stately, neoclassical
faculty homes with living quarters upstairs, and classrooms downstairs that were
attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing
colonnade. The buildings face a long lawn, anchored at one end by a
Pantheon-inspired Rotunda. Each Pavilion was identified with a subject to be
studied and inhabited by the professor who taught that subject.
Jefferson corresponded with
scholars in America and Europe, seeking the best faculty to teach in the areas
of philosophy, the arts, foreign languages, science, law, and medicine. In
March, 1825, the University of Virginia opened to serve its first 123 students.
Through the years, the University has grown and developed from its original
composition of white males (sons of wealthy plantation owners) to include men
and women of all ethnic and economic backgrounds with the emphasis on academic
excellence and adherence to an individual and communal â€śCode of Honorâ€ť.
In 1993, U.S. News and
World Report ranked UVA the nation's best public university. It has remained
at the top of that annual list ever since. The University of Virginia
consistently ranks well whether judged by popularity with students, retention
and graduation rates, or overall excellence and remains committed to fulfilling
the vision of its founder. Regularly scheduled official tours of the university
are offered. One of the tour points is the university's West Range, where
Woodrow Wilson and Edgar Allan Poe each lived when they were students
Monticello is located just
3 miles southeast of town. Thomas Jefferson was an inventor, and some of his
discoveries are displayed at Monticello. Among these are: a seven-day calendar
clock; semiautomatic glass doors; and a built-in bed that Jefferson could enter
from his bedroom, on one side, or his study, on the other. Jeffersonâ€™s memory is
honored at the family cemetery on the Monticello grounds.
Slightly more than two
miles from Monticello is Ash Lawn-Highland, the restored home of Americaâ€™s fifth
president, James Monroe. This 550-acre estate features gardens, farm-craft
demonstrations, and a hiking trail. The scene of many special events such as the
Summer Festival, It now hosts tours, concerts and occasional wine tastings.
Also in Charlottesville can
be found the home of James Madison, fourth president and author of the
Constitution. Charlottesville and Albemarle County proudly display their
historical treasures: Monticello; the grounds of the University of Virginia;
Historic Court Square; Michie Tavern, and countless others. Tours, special
events, and educational programs for the entire family attract many visitors to
The university's influence
on the town of Charlottesville is evident in the number of art galleries,
musical venues, bookstores, and trendy restaurants that line the brick streets
of downtown. The town has even adopted the university's famous honor policy:
yellow bicycles are left at major intersections for anyone to use, provided they
return them when they are finished. (Biking is a great way to get around
Charlottesville.) The town offers the best in dining, shopping and education in
a sophisticated, small town atmosphere.
borders Shenandoah National Park, whose 300 square miles stretch out along the
crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, serving as a reminder of the great hardwood
forests that once blanketed the northeastern United States and of the wildlife
that inhabited them. The park offers protection to the animals and plants that
thrive within its boundaries. A roadway bisects the park affording spectacular
views into the valley below. This is a place to bicycle, to hike, to canoe,
and to drive with the Appalachian Trail running for 100 miles through the entire
Take a picnic and drive
into the countryside in any direction from Charlottesville and you will discover
numerous Civil War sites and historical markers detailing more than two hundred
years of history. Beautiful estates, bounded by split-rail fences and cedar
trees, dot the rolling, hilly landscape. In and around Charlottesville,
history comes alive, enriching our understanding of the past and its
relationship to the present.