Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from James Clark, 31 May 1801

From James Clark

Washington City 31st may 1801


please excuse the liberty I am taking in writing to you I actidently heard that you had some thought of fixing a circular closet in the house you at present occupy this is a kind of closet that you know from experience will answer althought has long been in my mind respecting an other kind of moveable closet which in my opinion in many instances would answer a better purpose and save much trouble to serveants this closet mite be eather circular or squaair tho the squair kind would be made more roomy and rather less expensive than the circular kind the principle is nearly similar to that of fixing window sashes so that from the lower story of the house every thing may be put in the closet and a man with one hand may raise the closet with all its contents up to the next story and the closet may be made the whole hight of a story and with the same convenience a person can get to the upper as to the lower or middle shelves.

I once sudgested this plan to Colonel Wm. Thornton of Culpepper in Virginia he approved of the plan and intended me to put one in his house tho it was not done on account of that part of his house being left unfinished.

I hope youl excuse me if I should be again oblige to trouble you about my business at the Treasury office.

I am Sir With due respect your most obedient and most humble Serveant at command

James Clark

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esquire”; endorsed by TJ as received 1 June and so recorded in SJL.

Clark contracted with the District of Columbia Commissioners on 15 Nov. 1800 to build back stairs at the President’s House. While it is unclear whether Clark installed a circular closet for TJ, the dining room at the President’s House included revolving circular shelves set into the wall so that servants could unobtrusively serve and collect dinnerware. TJ also adapted tiers of mahogany shelves on wheels or dumb waiters to serve various dishes in the Small Dining Room. At Monticello, TJ installed both of these innovations in his dining room as well as a turntable clothes closet in his bedroom at the foot of his alcove bed (DNA: RG 42, PC; Stein, Worlds description begins Susan R. Stein, The Worlds of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, New York, 1993 description ends , 60, 82; McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello description begins Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: The Biography of a Builder, New York, 1988 description ends , 372).

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