Friday, October 28, 2011

Poplar Forest: Thomas Jefferson's Retreat

Summer may be over but the weather is still quite pleasant so now is a great time to plan a trip.  But, you may ask, where?  Well, do you like history?  How about architecture?  Or perhaps horticulture and agriculture pique your interest.  Maybe you fancy yourself an amateur archaeologist.  And maybe you appreciate ingenious designs.  Or maybe you like all of the above.  If so, then your vacation destination must be Poplar Forest. 
Nestled between housing subdivisions in Forest, VA and on over 600 acres, you will find the retreat of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.  Similar in design to his more famous residence, Monticello, located in Charlottesville, VA, Poplar Forest is a wonderful example of the octagonal brick villa architecture that Jefferson favored.  The home also contains many examples of Jefferson’s inventiveness.  The polygraph device he created to simultaneously make copies of the letters he penned is just one example.
Jefferson began construction of Poplar Forest in 1806 and began making regular visits to his retreat in 1809.  He made several trips a year for the next fourteen years.  While at Poplar Forest, Jefferson dedicated much time to his varied interests, including the study of math, natural sciences, farming, history, and Native American culture. 
Upon Jefferson’s death in 1826, the home was passed to his grandson, Francis Eppes, who sold it two years later.  The home then remained privately owned by various families until 1984 when it was sold to the nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest.  It became open for visitors in 1986. 
It’s hard to imagine that a home of such historical significance was privately owned and occupied for so long.  Thankfully though, it was this constant occupancy that kept Poplar Forest so well preserved.  Nevertheless one can’t help wondering if the prior owners ever installed green shag carpeting in the parlor during the 1970’s!  Well, perhaps not, but still the home did undergo many changes over the years that historians and preservationists have been painstakingly seeking to undo.  And that’s what makes Poplar Forest such a fascinating place to visit.  With on-going restoration and excavation projects, there is always something new to see and learn!
As you plan your trip, keep in mind that Poplar Forest is open to the public seven days a week from March 15 through December 15 but is closed on November 24.  Check out the Poplar Forest website at for more information on hours, admission fees, tours, volunteer opportunities, and special events. 
I hope you enjoy your trip through history and, as always, tell them Cindy at sent you!


  1. Hello Cindy - I know so little about Virginia, but I'm starting to think I should know more - it looks like a lovely place to be.

  2. Sharon, it is lovely here in Virginia and I'm glad your curiosity has been piqued. Check back often and I'll try to keep you informed so if you decide to visit, you'll know all of the places to go!