December 14, 2019
In this excellent account of Monticello's ownership after Thomas Jefferson's death, Leepson, who has written for the New York Times, Preservation and Smithsonian, turns the spotlight on a family that contributed to the preservation of history but heretofore went unnoticed. When Jefferson died in 1826 his enormous debt forced his heirs to sell the beloved estate. Unfortunately, James Turner Barclay, a Charlottesville, Va., druggist who paid $7,000 for it, let the house decline during the few years he owned it. In 1834 the house was purchased by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Uriah Phillips Levy, a wealthy, bold, passionate admirer of Jefferson who quickly poured money into its repair. Thus began this Jewish-American family's nearly 90-year proprietorship of Monticello.
After being briefly appropriated by the Confederacy during the Civil War, it again landed in the hands of a Levy, Uriah's nephew Jefferson Levy. Monticello became a kind of surrogate child for this extremely successful, unmarried businessman and sometime politician. When the patriotic New York socialite Maud Littleton began her campaign to make Monticello a government-owned shrine in 1911, the battle that ensued in Congress and the newspapers was as emotional as any child custody battle, but more compelling for the dynamic lives and personalities involved. Through extensive research and with fascinating detail, Leepson uncovers the facts surrounding Monticello's owners and preservation involving great wealth, patriotism, anti-Semitism, and social and political influence. Leepson's absorbing account is an overdue chronicle and homage to the national treasure and its memorable saviors….Publisher’s Weekly.
Our guest speaker at the District of Columbia Society Sons of the American Revolution Holiday Dinner, held at the Capitol Hill Club on December 12, 2019 in the National Capital, was Marc Leepson, a journalist, historian and author of nine books. Those books include "Ballad of the Green Beret, a biography of Army Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler” (2017), "What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, A Life" (2014), "Lafayette: Idealist General" (2011), "Desperate Engagement, the story of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy and the Confederate attack on Washington, D.C." (2007), "Flag: An American Biography, the history of the Stars and Stripes from the beginnings to the 21st century" (2005), and "Saving Monticello" (2001).
During his presentation, while guest dined on Crab Cakes and Petite Filet Steak, Leepson highlights his book “Saving Monticello” that offers the first complete post-Jefferson history of this American icon and reveals the amazing story of how one Jewish family saved the house that became a family home to them for 89 years -- longer than it ever was to the Jefferson.
Our next event will be the 2020 Sweethearts and Patriots Gala, to be held at the Embassy of France on February 8, 2020. The beneficiaries for this event will be the Code of Support Foundation (https://www.codeofsupport.org) and l’AssociationTerre Fraternité (http://www.terre-fraternite.fr). More Information can be found at https://www.facebook.com/SweetheartsandPatriots/.