Poplar Forest

Poplar Forest was Thomas Jefferson's plantation and plantation house in what is now Forest, Virginia, near Lynchburg. He designed it and treated it as a private retreat, working on it from 1806 until his death 20 years later. "It is the most valuable of my possessions," Jefferson once wrote a correspondent. Although he had intended it for his youngest daughter Mary Jefferson Eppes and her family, she died at age 26. He entrusted it to her only surviving son Francis W. Eppes.

Known as the architect of such buildings as Monticello, the University of Virginia, and the Virginia State Capitol, Jefferson built the more remote and lesser-known Poplar Forest as a place to escape the hordes of visitors at Monticello and seek the "solitude of a hermit." It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. It is operated as an historic house museum.

History

In 1773 Jefferson inherited the estate of 4,800 acres (1,900 ha) from his father-in-law, John Wayles. He supervised the laying of the foundations for a new octagonal house in 1806, while still President of the United States. The octagon house, built in accordance with Palladian principles, includes a central cube room, 20 feet (6.1 m) on a side, porticos to the north and south, and a service wing to the east.

Jefferson bequeathed Poplar Forest to his grandson Francis W. Eppes upon his marriage. Eppes and his bride lived there only a short time and sold the plantation in 1828 before moving to Florida.

Preservation

The house underwent many alterations by different owners over the years, and the plantation's area was incrementally reduced to just 50 acres (20 ha). The house is in part now surrounded by suburban subdivisions.

Since 1986, the house has been undergoing several phases of restoration to return it to the state it was in when Jefferson lived there. Over 600 acres (240 ha) of the original plantation has been purchased to provide a landscape easement for the house. The property was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Poplar Forest was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America (1996), during its complete restoration.

Archaeological studies, under way for more than 20 years, have been used as the basis to restore the ornamental landscape and architecture of the house. Based on this work, the service wing, which was demolished in 1840, is being reconstructed. Archaeological studies have also been made to reveal the artifacts of Poplar Forest's enslaved African-American community, as well as the broader agricultural landscape that characterized the property from the mid 18th-century through the American Civil War.

Operated as a historic house museum, Poplar Forest is open to the public for tours from March 15 through December 15. The Hands-on History Center provides on-site programs for school groups in grades 2 and up.It is located at 1548 Bateman Bridge Road in Forest, Virginia.

Media

3 photos

Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com