Jefferson Monroe and Isabella Levy

  1. Home
  2. Biographies
  3. Jefferson Monroe and Isabella Levy

Depicted here are the two oldest children of Frances Allen Mitchell and Jonas Phillips Levy. Jonas, the son of Michael and Rachel Machado Phillips Levy, who commanded the USS America during the Mexican-American War, and was appointed captain of the Mexican port of Veracruz by General Winfield Scott following the conclusion of hostilities in February of 1848. In November of that year he married Frances—called Fannie by her friends and family—and the young couple settled in Mexico. In December of the following year Isabella was born, and the family soon returned to New York. There, Jonas made a fortune in real estate, and he and Fannie had four more children, beginning with their eldest son, named for two American presidents: Jefferson Monroe Levy.

Isabella married Markus George Ryttenberg and became known as one of New York society’s premiere hostesses. They had one child, Clarkson Potter Ryttenberg.

Jefferson, like his father, did well in New York real estate and even better in the stock market. In 1836 his uncle, Uriah P. Levy, had purchased Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, then languishing a decade after the President’s death. In an early act of historical preservation, Uriah had returned Monticello to its earlier grandeur as a tribute to Jefferson. The childless Uriah’s will, however, had been vague and eccentric, and his death in 1862 was followed by almost two decades of court battles between competing heirs. Monticello, in 1879, ended up under twenty-seven-year-old Jefferson’s control, and with the property, once again, in disrepair, he, like his uncle before him, spent years restoring it.

Jefferson was elected to Congress as a Democrat, serving three terms, from 1899-1901 and from 1911-1915. At Monticello, he hosted Theodore Roosevelt and numerous notables and members of Congress. William Jennings Bryan tried to purchase it from him, but Jefferson reportedly replied, “All the money in the Treasury could not pay for the mansion.” In the late nineteenth century, Jefferson’s private ownership of Monticello became something of a controversy, with many arguing the property should be made public. Virginia Governor Thomas Fortune Ryan tried to buy the property, but to no avail. Only when his money was running out did Jefferson change his mind, and following World War I, he made it known that he we would now consider selling. Funds were raised to create the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, which purchased the property, now in the hands of Jefferson’s sister Amelia, shortly after his death in 1924.


Jefferson Monroe and Isabella Levy

c. 1859