breaking news

Investigators locate vehicle suspected in Boynton hit-and-run

Visitors can act, rap Hamilton story at Jefferson’s Monticello


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Alexander Hamilton never visited the home of archrival Thomas Jefferson. But the nation’s first Treasury secretary — and namesake of the hit musical — rules the house during the new Hamilton Tour Takeover at Monticello.

The after-hour visits are part history class and part civics lesson — with chances to rap and sing.

“Jefferson is definitely a villain of the musical, but this is not in any way a response,” says Steve Light, Monticello’s tour manager. “We want people to engage in the history.”

The leaders’ complicated and contradictory relationship becomes clear the moment you enter the mansion. Light points to busts of Hamilton and Jefferson, which the third president installed so they could remain “opposed in death as in life.”

The guide distributes stick puppets of the Founding Fathers, and the nature of their conflict emerges as visitors read excerpts from source documents and lyrics from the musical. Hamilton, an “immigrant, orphan, bastard,” believed in the leadership of aristocrats, while Jefferson, an aristocrat, trusted in the people, Light says.

“Who does he mean by the people?” asks Astrid Crookshank, visiting from Maryland with her college-age son. “Women? Slaves? Or white landowners?”

Light answers by quoting “The Hamilton Mixtape” about the nature of history: “The reality is messier and richer, kids.”

As the tour approaches the dining room, a visitor begins to sing “The Room Where It Happens,” a showstopper from the play.

Light explains the famed meeting actually occurred in New York, where Hamilton, Jefferson and James Madison agreed the nation would assume states’ debts in return for placing the capital in Washington, D.C. As the song says, Jefferson likely “arranged the menu, the venue and the setting” — with the help of his slave, Paris-trained chef James Hemings.

Tonight’s tour ends in the recently restored Dome Room, where Light brings up the 1800 presidential election. Surprisingly, Hamilton played a crucial role in helping Jefferson defeat his running mate, Aaron Burr. “Jefferson has beliefs,” Hamilton explains onstage. “Burr has none.”

As the evening sun streams through circular windows, Light asks his visitors their opinion: Are we living in Hamilton’s nation today or Jefferson’s? After some discussion, Crookshank speaks up.

“I think the country won,” she says, “because we have both.”

The roughly 90-minute tours cost $40 and are offered select Fridays and Saturdays through May, and in September; www.monticello.org.

———

(Larry Bleiberg is a freelance writer.)



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Earth Day 2018: Ways to celebrate, honor the earth in Palm Beach County
Earth Day 2018: Ways to celebrate, honor the earth in Palm Beach County

Earth Day is every year on April 22. The intention is to raise awareness about the planet we live in and to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Want to participate? Here’s a list of Earth Day activities around Palm Beach County.  The Palm Beach Zoo’s party will be filled with educational, engaging and fun activities for...
Disney: Pandora Utility Suit coming to Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is introducing a 10-foot-tall way to get into the details of its World of Avatar. The Pandora Utility Suit, a mechanical apparatus guided by a human pilot, will debut at the theme park on April 22.  The new brand of street entertainment will inform guests about Pandora’s flora — bioluminescent and otherwise...
Retiring travel editor names his top 10 trips
Retiring travel editor names his top 10 trips

Over my 20-year career writing travel stories for The Seattle Times, a question I’ve fielded (happily, I should say) when meeting someone for the first time was almost as predictable as the number of pretzels I got flying Coach: What’s been my favorite trip? I usually fudged. Prettiest place? Nicest people? Most fun? Educational? How does...
In Beijing encounters, a wayward soul stumbles toward self-discovery
In Beijing encounters, a wayward soul stumbles toward self-discovery

I like to watch the beautiful women of Beijing spit on the street. My journey to get to the capital of China was arduous. I got an hour of sleep on the plane. My first 24 hours here came without closing my eyes. That first evening, a friend insisted on giving me a long walking tour of the city. Over the next few days, I visited the Forbidden City and...
In Bangkok, an intimate hotel with an inky past

1 Lan Luang Road; bpresidence.com   Double rooms from 4,800 baht (about $154).  Stop the presses. The fading glories of books and printing receive a retro-chic resurrection at Bangkok Publishing Residence, an intimate eight-room hotel that opened last year in the former offices of Bangkok Weekly magazine. The atriumlike four-story structure...
More Stories