Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest
"I have fixed myself comfortably, keep some books here, bring others occasionally, am in the solitude of a hermit, and quite at leisure to attend to my absent friends.” - Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest home in Forest, Virginia is a little known gem tucked into the suburban countryside in Bedford County. Built as Jefferson's retreat house, Poplar Forest is an excellent example of his architectural genius. Construction began in 1806 on the octagonal house, designed to be a getaway from the daily rigors of a life in the public eye.
While still office, Jefferson would often take trips down to oversee the construction of his tranquil haven. Seeking privacy from the constant stream of visitors at Monticello, Poplar Forest was his vision of a secluded refuge. Here, Jefferson could read, write, study, and think, far removed from political decisions..
Jefferson would make three trips a year to Poplar Forest in his later years, often accompanied by his children and grandchildren. Personally designed, It provided the perfect setting for rest and leisure for the aging Jefferson and his family.
Jefferson and Poplar Forest
- Jefferson and his wife, Martha inherited the plantation in 1773. The 4,819 acres provided additional income as Jefferson practiced law and managed the property from a distance.
- With its Neoclassical and Neo-Palladian design, the house was designated a National Landmark in 1970.
- Jefferson designed the world famous Monticello and the University of Virginia as well as the Virginia State Capital building.
- In 1781, during the revolutionary war, Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello came under seige by the British. Jefferson, the governor at the time, made a narrow escape to his plantation in Poplar Forest, staying in the only dwelling on the property at that time.
- Although he enjoyed the downtime, Jefferson the farmer stayed busy at Poplar forest growing tobacco and wheat. His plow design won awards from the French Society of Agriculture in 1809.
- Jefferson read six languages, and owned a vast library of books from all over the world, 1,000 of which were kept at Poplar Forest.
Jefferson's last visit to the house was with his grandson, Francis Eppes. Eppes would own the property for a short time after Jefferson's death before selling it two years later. Privately owned, the house was altered several times, at one time even being used as a farmhouse.
As development sprawled in the 1980’s, developing subdivisions inched ever closer to the forgotten home. Envisioning a landmark open to the public, in 1984 the Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, a non profit organization purchased the property and the remaining buildings, and began slowly renovating the home back to its former glory.
Jefferson's many notes and letters helped the restoration staff return Poplar Forest back to its original form. According to the Poplar Forest website, the nonprofit owns 577 acres of Jefferson’s retreat and is looking to secure loans for another 39 acres of Jefferson’s estate.
1542 Bateman Bridge Road
Forest, VA 24551
Open March 15 - November 15, 7 days a week. 10-4. Restoration/archaeology in progress. Located near Lynchburg. www.poplarforest.org. Call (434) 525-1806.
The house was opened to the public in 1986 and today Poplar forest is alive and well, hosting countless events during the year. From Garden days to wine festivals, candlelight tours to the Poplar Forest 5k run, Jefferson's once secluded hideaway is now bursting with activity. The Independence Day celebration is a popular event complete with crafts, music, historical reenactors, and highlighted by the reading of the Declaration of Independence.
"When finished, it will be the best dwelling house in the state, except that of Monticello; perhaps preferable to that, as more proportioned to the faculties of a private citizen." - Thomas Jefferson
Links and Sources
- Poplar Forest - Thomas Jefferson - Great Buildings Architecture
Poplar Forest by Thomas Jefferson architect, at Forest, near Lynchburg, Virginia, 1806, architecture in the Great Buildings Online.
- Jack Jouett's Ride
- Poplar Forest; Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello