Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

From the World Heritage inscription for Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville:

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), author of the American Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, was also a talented architect of neoclassical buildings. He designed Monticello (1769–1809), his plantation home, and his ideal ‘academical village’ (1817–26), which is still the heart of the University of Virginia. Jefferson’s use of an architectural vocabulary based upon classical antiquity symbolizes both the aspirations of the new American republic as the inheritor of European tradition and the cultural experimentation that could be expected as the country matured.

While not the oddest of World Heritage Sites I’ve visited, I’m surprised that it was included for architectural reasons, not historical ones. I’m sure there are many other American buildings from the same time period which are more architecturally significant but weren’t designed by a former president. It sort of shows you the thinking of the UNESCO committees which pick world heritage sites.


Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

The Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the US. It is located in the state of Virginia and was inscribed in 1987. These two sites were recognized as one property by UNESCO for their cultural value.

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, has close ties with these cultural sites. As an author, philosopher, historian, and scientist, Thomas Jefferson helped to write the Declaration of Independence. This was crucial in forming the foundations of self-government and freedom as is known today. Jefferson’s literature and the architecture, which includes the University of Virginia and Montecillo, were crucial for scholars to study how American came to be.


Monticello is Thomas Jefferson’s primary plantation in Virginia. It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US, along with the University of Virginia. Jefferson designed and planned Monticello himself at the age of 26 after his father gifted him the land. This 5,000-acre plantation is located in the Piedmont region of Virginia. He then developed this land for the cultivation of mixed crops and tobacco. It has been cited as a National Historic Landmark because of the historic significance and the architecture of the plantation, particularly its main building.

The main house of the plantation depicts a neoclassic architectural style. The name Monticello was derived from an Italian word, which means little mount. When Jefferson died, he was buried at the grounds of this plantation. This part of the plantation is now referred to as the Monticello Cemetery.

University of Virginia

Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

The other half of Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville UNESCO site is the academic village. This academic institution was established in 1819 and was founded by Thomas Jefferson. This is the first and only academic institution that made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites when it was added with Monticello in 1987.

According to the board at UNESCO, this site was inscribed into the list because it exhibits the human creative genius. It also symbolizes Jefferson’s ideals of enlightenment. In fact, Jefferson himself considered the founding of this academic institution as one of his biggest achievements.

Interesting Facts

  • The Monticello is a private residence and a working plantation. There were about 130 slaves that Thomas Jefferson enlisted to tend on the garden and livestock, as well as cultivate the plantation.
  • Thomas Jefferson designed Monticello; however, he based it on the design principles of Andrea Palladio.
  • Since the death of Thomas Jefferson, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation was established in 1923 to manage and operate Monticello.
  • When the University of Virginia was founded in 1819, Thomas Jefferson took over the design, construction, curriculum planning and recruitment of staff.
  • The entire complex that the University of Virginia belongs in is called the academic village. There are buildings for classrooms and dwellings for the students.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

Gary Arndt
Gary Arndt

Gary began traveling the world in 2007. His travels have taken him to over 200 countries and territories and 400 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

He is a 3x Lowell Thomas Award winner and a 3x North American Travel Photographer of the Year.