Touring Poplar Forest – Summer Home of Thomas Jefferson

Most everyone knows that Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, is in Charlottesville, VA but did you know that he had a summer home?

Poplar Forest, located in Forest, VA, was Jefferson’s summer home.

Touring Poplar Forest - Summer Home of Thomas Jefferson

Touring Poplar Forest – Summer Home of Thomas Jefferson

When Jefferson became president in 1801, Poplar Forest was a 4,500-acre plantation. The plantation was purchased by Jefferson in 1806 and transformed into a private retreat.

The Outside of Poplar Forest

When entering the property, you drive down the road seen here.

Entrance to Poplar Forest

Then you see the front of Poplar Forest.

Front of Poplar Forest

Poplar Forest gets its name from the giant Poplar trees surrounding it.

My first visit to Poplar Forest was on a field trip in 1995. A funny thing happened here that I and my teacher friends will never forget.

The tour guide asked the kids, “Why do you think Poplar Forest is named Poplar Forest?” A girl raised her hand and said, “Because Thomas Jefferson was so popular.” None of the kids laughed but after the field trip was over, my teacher friends, and I hee-hawed over what she said.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

The circular driveway has recently been restored. The box that you see shows what the original driveway looked like.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

To the left is a wing very similar to Monticello.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

Mulberry trees are planted to the right of the home.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

The back side of Poplar Forest is just as beautiful as the front side. The rooms in the wing served as offices and service areas.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

This is what Poplar Forest looked like many years after Thomas Jefferson’s life ended. My friend, Martha, remembers visiting here in her childhood to play with friends.

Poplar Forest before restoration

Jefferson designed mounds for either side of his home to complement the architecture.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

Beside each mound is a privy.

Outdoor Privy at Poplar Forest, summer home of Thomas Jefferson

Have you ever used a privy? I did once in my childhood. Blah! This privy is missing the corn cobs.

Outdoor Privy at Poplar Forest, summer home of Thomas Jefferson

An herb garden maintained by the Hill City Master Gardener Association is at the rear of the property.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

These buildings were slave houses and you also can see the other privy.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

There is an interesting exhibit in one room of the slave quarters.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

This replica shows the size of other slave quarters that were on the grounds of Poplar Forest during Jefferson’s time.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

My second visit to Poplar Forest was on another field trip and the kids had a great time with hands-on exhibits in this building.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

These buildings have been added since my last visit.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

A tour of Poplar Forest begins here. When you visit, don’t miss the gift shop.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

This was the site of a barn post-Jefferson’s time. A new road will cover this area so it is being dug for artifacts.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

Touring the Inside of Poplar Forest

On my first visit to Poplar Forest, the inside was completely gutted. On my second visit, much work had been done. On this visit, I was very impressed with what has been accomplished for the restoration Poplar Forest.

This diagram shows all of Poplar Forest’s rooms.

Poplar Forest Floor Plan

Through the passageway you get a view of the dining room and parlor.

Touring Poplar Forest in Forest, VA - Thomas Jefferson's Summer Home

Northwest Chamber

This is the Northwest chamber.

Poplar Forest Northwest Chamber

Jefferson’s Bedchamber

Through the doorway is Jefferson’s bedchamber.

Thomas Jefferson's bedroom at Poplar Forest

Jefferson’s bed was located in the opening.

Thomas Jefferson's bedroom at Poplar Forest

Can you picture Thomas Jefferson sitting at his desk beside the fire?

Thomas Jefferson's bedroom at Poplar Forest

Note the interesting design of the chair. The purpose of the back detail is so the chair wouldn’t sink in the grass when used outdoors.

Thomas Jefferson's bedroom at Poplar Forest

A second fireplace was located on the opposite side of the bedchamber.

Jefferson had chimney covers made to keep smoke out of the room when only one fireplace was being used.

Thomas Jefferson's bedroom at Poplar Forest

Dining Room

In the middle of the home is the dining room.

Poplar Forest Dining Room

All of the millwork has been reconstructed using Poplar from the property or adjoining properties. These items still need to be added.

The millwork will eventually be painted white like it was in Jefferson’s day.

Poplar Forest Dining Room

The Parlor

In Thomas Jefferson’s day, flower beds lined the edges of the recessed area in the yard.

Poplar Forest Parlor

The contraption on the table allowed Jefferson to make a copy of a letter as he wrote.

Poplar Forest Parlor

The opposite side of the room shows Jefferson’s favorite chair for relaxing and a few of his books.

Poplar Forest Parlor

The bookcase is made from boxes used to ship Jefferson’s books to the White House. It took 10 wagon loads to transport Jefferson’s books there.

Bookcase in Poplar Forest Parlor

Girls’ Room

Jefferson’s granddaughters traveled with him when he went to Poplar Forest.

Granddaughters' bedroom at Poplar Forest

Note the holes in the wall where moulding and chair rail were attached.

Granddaughters' bedroom at Poplar Forest

Northwest Chamber

The Northeast and Northwest chambers served as guest rooms.

Poplar Forest Northeast Chamber

The sign over the fireplace is a timeline of the house’s history after Jefferson’s time.

History of Poplar Forest

Wing Rooms

One room served as the kitchen.

Poplar Forest Basement Kitchen

For the time period, this was a very modern kitchen.

Poplar Forest Basement Kitchen

One room was used for weaving.

Poplar Forest Basement

This room was a guest chamber.

Poplar Forest Basement

Basement

A wine cellar was located in the Poplar Forest basement.

Poplar Forest Wine Cellar

I particularly enjoyed seeing relicts that have been found on the property in the basement exhibit.

Poplar Forest Relects

If you ever travel to central Virginia, make time to tour Poplar Forest!

Just for Fun

My friend lives in Thomas Jefferson’s nephew’s hunting cabin. The original hitching post is still in the yard.

Thomas Jefferson's nephew's hunting cabin in Lynchburg, VA

Visit my travel page to enjoy more tours and trip recaps.

35 Comments

  1. Hi Paula! Oh, this is one of my and my husband’s favorite things to do! We love exploring and touring old historic places. I don’t believe we’ve ever been here but have been to Monticello and it was spectacular. Now I want to come here. Thank you for all of the lovely photos and now it seems like I have toured it with you. Yes, I know about a privy (we just called them an outhouse. My little grandparents lived on a farm in Alabama and they had an outhouse! Read lots of Sears catalogues back in the day in there! 🙂
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  2. I’ve never heard of of Poplar Forest. I’d love to visit there.

    I have used a privy. We always called it the outhouse. I was always terrified of all the spiders in it & would beg someone to go look for spiders before I went inside. My family would be so frustrated with me.

    I was born in 1966 & we did not have indoor plumbing until the early 1970s. We hauled water from a well just outside the door…I say we…I was a baby so obviously I did not haul water. We did have electricity. My mother heated water on the stove & we took baths in a metal washtub. She had a wringer washing machine (electric) so she did laundry partly by hand because she had to feed each piece of clothing through the wringer. She never let us help with it because she was afraid we’d get our hands crushed. My older sister did get her hand pulled in once but she was only bruised thankfully. I remember learning to wash my hair in a big bucket outside in the summer time. To this day I cannot wash my hair well in the shower. I have to bend over the sink because it doesn’t feel right to clean it any other way.

    We also had a wood burning cook stove that my mother used. We had an electric stove too but in the winter she cooked on the wood stove as much or more than the electric stove. And when big storms came with long power outages, neighbors came to use the stove & cook for their families. It had an oven so she baked in it as well.

  3. You always take the most interesting trips and share such great history. I think it’s the teacher in you! I love that. I’ve heard of this home, but never visited. I’ve also used an outhouse (although privy sounds much nicer) in high school, we used to go out to the Hamptons to a friend’s house on weekends. We used to stay in cabins on the property that were used for migrant farm workers and there wasn’t any plumbing, just rough spaces. It wasn’t pleasant!!

  4. Thank you for sharing. I will add this to my spring travel (I live in New Kent County, Va – home of 2 First Ladies).

  5. This looks really interesting! It’s nice that the history is still standing so you can visit and tour it! 🙂

    Hope you are having a great weekend 🙂 We had a quiet day yesterday as we had a big day at the zoo on Friday – we got to feed a giraffe!

  6. What an interesting post! I had never heard of Popular Forest. It is beautiful. Virginia is rich in history.
    Thanks so much for sharing your trip,
    Suzanne

  7. I did not about Poplar Forest but I have never been to visit. I have been to Monticello many many times. My favorite part of both houses are the best between the walls, to keep you warm!

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tour!

  8. Thanks for the tour, Paula! What an interesting layout for the house! What an historical treasure. I loved the story about why it’s named Poplar House! Ha!

  9. What a wonderful trip! The circular driveway brought me memories of growing up with my grandparents and the circular driveway. It was so wonderful to remember!

  10. This place looks phenomenal, Paula! I pinned it, and hope to be able to visit there sometime soon. I started reading this post over a week ago and never got to finish it until today. Those chairs are awesome, and believe it or not, Mr. P. attended a one-room schoolhouse that had an outdoor privy! It made an indelible impression, needless to say. Thanks for sharing this gem. We’ve been to Monticello but not Poplar Forest.

  11. Thanks Paula! Looks like a great day trip or overnighter for us as we live near Frederick, MD. We have been to Monticello but I would love to tour Poplar Forest.

    1. My dad’s family is from Middletown! I hope that you plan a trip this way soon. You also could tour Appomattox and visit Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke. Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway would be a bonus if you plan an October trip.

  12. Thank you for the lovely tour. With the pandemic and my SO’s health problems, our touring has been severely curtailed. This was a mini-vacay without the inconvenience of travel!

  13. Paula, fun post!! I love history and if you haven’t been to the History Traveler on YouTube, he did a tour of The Poplar awhile back, so it was especially nice to see your photographs so I could really refresh my memory! 🙂 Happy to have featured your post at this week’s Share Your Style #318 for you. Great place to visit!

    Hugs,
    Barb 🙂

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