Sally Hemings in Paris

From The Root:

In this excerpt of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” author Annette Gordon-Reed examines how Sally Hemings and her brother, the chef James Hemings, enjoyed the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Paris in the 1770s while living with Thomas Jefferson during his stint as Ambassador to France. Teenaged Sally gets her own pay and taste of freedom that eluded her back home in Virginia.

Sept. 22, 2008–The home that Sally Hemings moved to was just inside the city limits of Paris. The Hôtel de Langeac was right next to the Grille de Chaillot, one of the many gated entry points into what was still at the time a walled city. The house, abutting the Champs-Elysées and along the rue Neuve de Berri, was more expensive than Jefferson could afford. He thought, however, that his position demanded a suitable residence for all the entertaining that he expected to do.

This residence was truly worthy of a French aristocrat. The expansive grounds entered by a way of an impressive courtyard, contained “green houses,” an extensive kitchen garden, and another “graceful” one that Jefferson pronounced “clever.” Just off the entryway into the courtyard were the porter’s lodge and servants’ quarters.

Living at such a place gave both Sally and her brother James Hemingses ample opportunity to compare their surroundings in Paris with those they had seen in Virginia, and they could only have found Virginian residences wanting. The amenity of having indoor bathrooms was remarkable for both them and the Jeffersons.. The very complexity of the house, with its multiple stairways (one large formal one and two smaller private ones) and its numerous passageways leading into different areas of the mansion, no doubt piqued their interest as well.