This well-executed replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is not only an achievement in itself, it is also the 100th birthday achievement goal of a most remarkable man, Stewart Prestley Blake, former co-founder of Friendly Ice Cream fame. Still going strong, Prestley, or “Pres,” as he is often called, will turn 102 in November and has always created a goal to be met in each year of his adult life. Possibly a clue to his longevity?
It took a lot of ingenuity back in 1935 at the height of the Great Depression to start a business. Especially one that could be considered a frivolous non-necessity. But brothers Prestley and Curtis Blake of Springfield, Massachusetts, understood the need for little pleasures that would lessen the impact of struggle during those bleak years, so they opened Friendly, an ice cream store with $547 initial capital from their parents, where they sold double-dipped cones for five cents each. It was so popular that by 1940 they opened a second store in West Springfield. Though there was a pause for closing during World War II, when they reopened after the war, by 1951 they already had 10 stores. By the time the brothers sold the operation to Hershey Foods Corporation in 1979 for $162 million and retired, there were 500 stores operating from the Northeast through the Mid-Atlantic.
Located in Somers, Connecticut, and with nearly 10,000 square feet of living space, the Monticello replica has a total of 11 rooms with five bedrooms and five full and four half baths sited on over nine acres. Exterior hand-made brick was imported from Virginia and soffits were custom molded to match Jefferson’s carved wooden soffits. The balustrades around the rooftop are also designed to look exactly like those at the original Monticello. The roof is a composite material made to look like slate. The interior was designed for modern living standards, however, homages exist throughout including the blue sky ceiling mural in the entryway that recalls the skylight in Jefferson’s dome room. Jefferson used shutters for window coverings, but in the case of the replica, provisions were engineered instead to accommodate today’s preferences. The new owner will have the opportunity to landscape in the Jeffersonian style with a 1700’s style “fruitery” (fruit orchard), vegetable and flower gardens or something in keeping with modern style. Regardless of style, one thing is certain: No one can drive by or enter this stunning replica without remembering and appreciating the contributions Thomas Jefferson gave the country in architecture and horticulture - just as Prestley Blake would have wanted.
Connecticut replica of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, conceived and built by co-founder of Friendly’s Ice Cream, Prestley Blake in celebration of his 100th birthday, will be going up for auction with no reserve on May 31st.
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