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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
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.
Then you see the 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.
The circular driveway has recently been restored. The box that you see shows what the original driveway looked like.
To the left is a wing very similar to Monticello.
Mulberry trees are planted to the right of the 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.
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.
Jefferson designed mounds for either side of his home to complement the architecture.
Beside each mound is a privy.
Have you ever used a privy? I did once in my childhood. Blah! This privy is missing the corn cobs.
An herb garden maintained by the Hill City Master Gardener Association is at the rear of the property.
These buildings were slave houses and you also can see the other privy.
There is an interesting exhibit in one room of the slave quarters.
This replica shows the size of other slave quarters that were on the grounds of Poplar Forest during Jefferson’s time.
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.
These buildings have been added since my last visit.
A tour of Poplar Forest begins here. When you visit, don’t miss the gift shop.
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 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.
Through the passageway you get a view of the dining room and parlor.
This is the Northwest chamber.
Through the doorway is Jefferson’s bedchamber.
Jefferson’s bed was located in the opening.
Can you picture Thomas Jefferson sitting at his desk beside the fire?
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.
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.
In the middle of the home is the 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.
In Thomas Jefferson’s day, flower beds lined the edges of the recessed area in the yard.
The contraption on the table allowed Jefferson to make a copy of a letter as he wrote.
The opposite side of the room shows Jefferson’s favorite chair for relaxing and a few of his books.
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.
Jefferson’s granddaughters traveled with him when he went to Poplar Forest.
Note the holes in the wall where moulding and chair rail were attached.
The Northeast and Northwest chambers served as guest rooms.
The sign over the fireplace is a timeline of the house’s history after Jefferson’s time.
One room served as the kitchen.
For the time period, this was a very modern kitchen.
One room was used for weaving.
This room was a guest chamber.
A wine cellar was located in the Poplar Forest basement.
I particularly enjoyed seeing relicts that have been found on the property in the basement exhibit.
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.
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