Jefferson Monroe Levy
Any history of Jewish life in Charlottesville must include the story of the Levy family who owned and preserved Monticello from 1836 to 1923, although they held themselves apart from the Jewish life of the town. Uriah P. Levy, of a distinguished Sephardic family, was a Commodore in the United States Navy. Often a victim of anti-Semitism in his career, Levy was a student of Jefferson's ideas on religious freedom. "My veneration of Thomas Jefferson is wholehearted", he wrote.

Hearing in 1836 that Jefferson's Monticello had fallen into disrepair and was for sale, he purchased it and initiated major repairs of the house and grounds, intending to preserve it for future generations. At his death in 1862 the Civil War prevented the execution of his will. While litigation kept the property in limbo for 17 years, Monticello again deteriorated. In 1879, his nephew Jefferson Monroe Levy, a U. S. Congressman from New York, became the owner of Monticello. He undertook major restoration projects for the house, as his uncle had, and felt himself a protector of the Jefferson legacy. Visitors were welcomed to Monticello, and popular fireworks displays sponsored by Levy were held every July 4th. In 1923, after more than eighty years of ownership and protection by the Levy family, the house and property were purchased by the present owners, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.

 

Monticello during Levy ownership

(Courtesy Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation)

 

Uriah P. Levy maintained his membership in New York City's Sephardic synagogue, and apparently had little to do with other local Jews. Jefferson Monroe Levy lived at Monticello primarily during the summer, as his uncle had done. However, he did become more active in the civic affairs of Charlottesville. 20




To continue in the exhibit, select a category from the menu below:





| Specials Collections Home Page | Library Home Page |

Text copyright © 2001 by Jeffrey Hantman and Phyllis Leffler
Web presentation copyright © 2001 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.