Q: I have noticed on Route 250E, on the north side from Sleepy Hollow Trailer Court to Floor Fashions of Virginia, there are several fields full of objects that look like candles. They have been there for a year or so, but nobody seems to know what these are. Please Ace, you’re our only hope.—Wicker Basketcase
A: Finding the dealio with that property was not easy, Wick, but you know Ace: His sleuthing skills are usually up to any task. So trust Ace when he says that the mysterious objects you speak of hold no nefarious plan. In fact, the candle-like structures are actually protectors for baby trees. Specifically, they are protecting baby oak, ash and maple trees. Aww.
See, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, known to Ace and you as Monticello, owns that property out on 250E and got a grant to plant the trees there during 2002, the year of the drought, because of the property’s proximity to the Rivanna River.
But Ace got to wondering why the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation owns the fields in the first place. Turns out, the land is actually part of the former Shadwell plantation where TJ himself was born. (Ace loves a little dose of Jeffersonian lore, don’t you?)
A wee Thomas Jefferson spent most of his early life at Shadwell. The plantation was owned by Jefferson’s dad, Peter, from 1740 until he died in 1757. Pete left it to his wife, Jane. In 1768, Thomas moved out and began work on Monticello and just in time, too, because in 1770, his childhood home burned to the ground. It was never rebuilt, although the foundation remains today. When his mother passed away in 1776, TJ inherited the property.
Since then, not much has happened on ol’ Shadwell. It has been used as farming or grazing land (and some folks lived there in the 1940s, though there’s no record of who they were). In 1961, Shadwell was briefly opened as a historic attraction.
In 1963, Monticello bought 215 acres of the land. In September of 2000, the foundation teamed up with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to place what’s known as a deed of easement on Shadwell. That ensures the property remains untouched except for appropriate historic purposes. And what might those be, you ask Ace? How about protecting baby trees and preserving the legacy of our country’s third prez?