A Full-size Replica of the 18th-Century Home of Thomas Jefferson
Monticello Somers is a replica of Monticello, the 18th-century Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson, built in Somers, Connecticut. The owner and project visionary is S. Prestley Blake, who in 1935 co-founded the Friendly Ice Cream Corporation, an East Coast restaurant chain in the U.S. Blake had the replica built because he has always appreciated fine architecture and is a great enthusiast of Jefferson’s original Monticello.
Blake chose Western Massachusetts-based Laplante Construction to build the approximately 10,000 square foot home. There was no architect involved in the recreation other than Thomas Jefferson himself. Ray and Bill Laplante of Laplante Construction created the design specifications in hand-drawn designs. Every surface in the interior was designed by Jennifer Champigny of Champigny Home Designs in collaboration with Mr. and Mrs. S. Prestley Blake.
The building was designed as a “modernized replica,” meaning it is architecturally and historically accurate on the facade, while the interior contains all of the modern amenities of a luxury home. The dimensions, or “footprint” of the home is the same as the original Monticello with the exception of a three-car garage added to the back of the home. The design of Jefferson’s famous dome was replicated, however the main entry way has been redesigned with a new foyer and double circle staircase.
The three guiding principles for the project were quality, beauty and responsibility. Mr. and Mrs. Blake wanted to ensure the project was recreating history using renewable resources and modern green building techniques.
To achieve this goal, Monticello Somers was to be built using energy-efficient technologies, green building materials, and local construction and sourcing. The home would have geo-thermal heating and cooling with heat recovery ventilation, as well as energy-efficient windows and doors.
Mr. and Mrs. Blake and Laplante Construction needed a high-quality flooring material that was historically accurate to the beauty of the original Monticello materials, and sustainable enough to reach their objective of achieving a green build.
The Frank Miller Lumber Solution
For the hardwood flooring throughout Monticello Somers, Jennifer Champigny and Bill Laplante, along with Mr. and Mrs. Blake, specified the incomparably beautiful quartersawn American White Oak produced by Frank Miller Lumber, the world’s leading producer of quartersawn American White and Red Oak.
In the original Monticello, most of the structural wooden timbers used for the flooring and other fixtures came from Jefferson’s land. Similarly, Frank Miller Lumber purchases their logs from a group of loggers with whom they have had relationships for decades in a log procurement radius of approximately 450 miles from the sawmill located in Union City, Indiana.
Frank Miller Lumber is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® and regularly holds one of the greatest volumes of FSC certified quartersawn hardwoods in the United States. In the world of “green” building, many architects seek sources of FSC® certified lumber for their projects. This is especially true of projects striving to meet Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (or LEED) standards. LEED building projects are awarded one LEED point for using FSC certified hardwood. A second LEED point is awarded if the FSC lumber is sourced from within 500 miles of the project.
Chris Zizza, owner of C&R Flooring of New England, installed the flooring which was produced by Wilson Woodworks of Tolland, Connecticut. For over 25 years, C&R Flooring has sold, installed and refinished thousands of feet of wood flooring for New England’s homeowners and contractors.
Mr. Zizza said of the project, “The floor we installed at Monticello held the timeless beauty of a home in the late 1700’s the parquet and the quartersawn White Oak allows anyone who sees the project the opportunity to step back in time as they look around the home. It was a privilege to have been a part of such an elegant project.”
Jon Boulay, owner of Wilson Woodworks, added the following: “Wilson Woodworks is the Northeast’s premier custom hardwood flooring manufacturer. We use only the best domestic and imported hardwood for our plank and parquet products. We are very proud to have played a role in creating the iconic masterpiece that is ‘Monticello Somers’.”
“We chose to use the quartersawn White Oak because of its beautiful graining, along with its strength and stability. We felt that with the large expanse of floor, the quartersawn White Oak would have less movement and expansion. The quartersawn Oak is classic, and the perfect look for much a majestic home as Monticello.”
After 14 months from the outset, the project was completed in November of 2014, in time for S. Prestley Blake’s 100th birthday.
For four centuries, American hardwoods have been providing beauty and authenticity, warmth and integrity, lasting aesthetic and functional value to interiors. For floors, furniture, mouldings, millwork, cabinetry, and built-ins, American hardwoods are the very definition of green building materials, in abundant and self-renewing supply.
“We often use either Red or White Oak for flooring in our homes. On top of sustainability, density, strength, and beauty, it is readily available and a classic look that has been used throughout New England for centuries.”