Man Builds Replica of Monticello in Eastern Washington

Writer Dan Sisson has been at work on the project for decades

Monticello
Monticello. The original one, not the replica in Washington State
Martin Falbisoner/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / April 12, 2020 2:53 pm

If you’ve spent any time studying American history, you’re probably aware of Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia estate, Monticello. Evaluating its history is a conflicted task. The fact that Jefferson designed it himself is fascinating; the fact that its day-to-day activities includes countless people living in slavery is utterly horrifying.

What would it be like to visit a version of Monticello that didn’t have this troubled history? One man in eastern Washington State is working on making that a reality. At the Los Angeles Times, Drexel Heikes writes about Dan Sisson, a man who began digging the foundation of a replica of Monticello at the age of 61. Sisson is now 82, and he’s still at work on a potentially Quixotic project.

As Heikes writes, Sisson’s project is one that’s involved an incredible amount of resourcefulness:

Because he couldn’t afford to have the home built for him, Sisson scrounged for free bricks and cheap timber, flooring and marble. He straightened thousands of used nails. He got help from his wife and son, friends and others captivated by the idea of creating a Monticello northwest of Spokane.

Sisson’s life is a complex one: he played college football, ran for Congress as a Democrat, wrote for a variety of newspapers and maagzines and has taught at a dozen institutions of higher learning. He’s also written several books, including one about Jefferson’s election in 1800.

As a child, Sission visited Monticello with his father. He told Heikes that he recalls his father telling him, “Son, if you’re ever going to build a house, you should build one like this one.” He estimates that his replica of Jefferson’s home is 90% complete. Even unfinished, though, the saga of its construction is a powerful testament to one man’s resourcefulness.

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