The Nickel as Architectural Inspiration?!

While there has been a five-cent piece in American currency for as long as the nation has had coin presses, the nickel we know and spend today didn’t always look this way. Before today’s “nickel”, there was a smaller five-cent coin made of silver called a “half disme”. (Note: “disme” is still pronounced “dime” and was the original spelling of dime. To find out why, check out our blog post about dimes here!) The nickel we use today was created in 1866 from a nickel and copper mix, but President Thomas Jefferson didn’t appear on the nickel until 1938. When President Jefferson appeared on the heads (obverse) side of the coin, his house, Monticello, was added to the reverse side. Monticello, Jefferson’s house which included 5,000 acres of land, was designed by Jefferson himself and is currently open to the public for educational tours in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This is the most recent redesign of the nickel. The profile of President Jefferson is based off of a Rembrandt Peale portrait from 1800.

This is the most recent redesign of the nickel. The profile of President Jefferson is based off of a Rembrandt Peale portrait from 1800.

ACTIVITY

Build & Name Your Own Home!

If you could build and name your own home, what would it look like? Thomas Jefferson designed (and redesigned!) his house to include an octagonal room, a library, porches on all sides, a tea room and an incredible botanical garden on the grounds. What would your house look like? What would you name it? Have you kids draw a picture of their dream home. If you need a little inspiration, check out The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. Depending on their age, your kiddos can create a drawing or more of a floor plan and you can talk to them about the architecture profession. Then challenge them to try and build a model of the house they drew! This can be with blocks, sticks, playing cards, cardboard, paper machê, you name it!

Jefferson named his house Monticello, which means “Little Mountain” in Italian. As your kids’ houses take form, talk to them about the features they are including in their home and suggest some names based on them. Then see where the conversation will take you!

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