Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Bless his heart, I know sightseeing is pretty much at the bottom of David's list of fun things to do.  So it surprised and flattered me when he suggested going on Sunday. 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Poplar Forest, it's Thomas Jefferson's retreat near Lynchburg, VA.  It was sold two years after Jefferson died and privately owned until the early 80's when it was purchased by a group of folks with the goal of restoring it to Jefferson's specs.  They have completed much of the exterior restoration and are working on the interior and the grounds.

front view, standing in the carriage path

front porch

The benches were designed by Thomas Jefferson, but not for Poplar Forest. They were added as a safety feature.  I love both the color and the style of the shutters... and the fact that they are workable!

view from the front
The house faces due north, which I think is a really cool feature. No one in this part of the country seems to know their cardinal directions, including me.

side back view
The roof of the east wing is accessible by a door on the main floor. Again, the railing is a safety feature and not part of the original design.

back view
The sunken lawn, a feature that Jefferson saw in Europe, was originally lined with flowering trees and shrubs. Eventually, they will restore the grounds to the original specs.

arial rendering of the grounds as Jefferson designed


Evidence we were there!
You gotta love the combo of cheesiness and pained grimace. This is a perfect example of how we travel together. Could we possibly be any more different? Me- interested in every boring detail including dates and people and ages, imagining what it must have been like to live here 200 years ago. David- "Are you finished? Can we leave now?"  Seriously, this is now it goes down.  And sometimes it's not pretty. But it's real life.
Favorite Features:

1.  The combination of two different types of railings.  They couldn't be more different yet the contrast makes it interesting.  Sameness would be boring.  Applies to interior design... and to marriage, I think! :)
2.  The seriously sweet dining room table (a reproduction) that separates into three sections.  The middle is a drop leaf table and the ends come together to form an octagonal shaped table.  How genius is this?  The very epitome of multifunction furniture!  Wish I had seen this five years ago before our dining table was built.

3.  Dining room skylight.  And the 20" ceilings, of course.  But that skylight is awesome.  It casts a really unique and beautiful pattern of light into the room.

4.  Triple hung windows in the library.  Open them up and the room becomes a porch!

5.  View from the front door.  I've always loved houses that have a view of the back of the house from the front door.  Something about the center hallway and visible doorways sparks my curiosity and pulls me inside.

Have you done any local sightseeing this summer?  Please share!

ps.  I'm secretly hoping you'll tell me that we're not alone in our predicament of complete opposite ideas of "fun" vacation/travel activities.


  1. Laughing at your comparison of interior design & marriage! As far as Travel, we actually agree on whats fun & enjoy the same activities (mostly)..but there are plenty of other "contrasting" aspects in our marriage! ;)

  2. I'm a TJ fan and stumbled on your post. Had to laugh at your depiction of your marriage! I was excited to see plaster going up on the walls of poplar Forest. I love that dining room table, too. The two 'end' tables can be placed against the wall when not in use, which I think is brilliant. Can't wait to see the house finished! Thanks for an entertaining read.


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