When Thomas Jefferson originally moved into the South Pavilion of his Monticello estate in 1770, it was little more than an incomplete two-bedroom brick building and a cleared mountaintop. Over the course of the next 38 years, the author of the Declaration of Independence would personally design and oversee the construction of his "essay in architecture." The main house at Monticello, as it stands today, is a piece of architectural wonder; its design embodies themes derived from both Classical and Palladian styles of work.
While the Renaissance man himself was never formally trained as an architect, you can hardly tell, as his home consists of numerous unique features including a triangular pediment supported by Doric columns and his famous octagonal dome. Inside, the walls are covered with a variety of objects that highlight the former president's interests and accomplishments. Even today, you can still find one of the last remaining original artifacts from the Lewis & Clark expedition—a pair of elk antlers—in the entrance hall. But just like the great Roman cities that heavily influenced the design of Jefferson's home, Monticello wasn't built in a day.
Despite the fact that Jefferson amassed a great deal of debt by the time of his death, which can largely be attributed to debts he inherited from his father-in-law and his extensive list of hobbies, one can hardly argue that he failed to make sound economic choices with regard to his early years of homeownership.