The land the Poplar Forest sits on was owned by Thomas Jefferson for at least 30 years before he decided to build his small home on it in 1806. He loved the design style of Palladio and created a classic villa that combines ancient, Renaissance, Palladian, 18th century French with a peppering of British and American elements.
He was already in his 60s and a seasoned architect by the time he designed this house and his maturity is evident in the melding of the designs. He was a self-taught architect, who learned from not only what he read but also from what he observed.
From his earliest designs, he was always fascinated with the octagonal and here was his opportunity to turn his design into a reality. It is a mathematical design and results in four elongated octagonal rooms with a square room in the center. This design provides a light and airy interior and a striking exterior.
The house can only be visited on a tour. We arrived in time to only have a short wait to go in. You can always visit the gift shop while you are waiting.
This was our second visit to Poplar Forest and I was amazed at how much the house has changed since we were last here. Great progress has been made with the interior, it was a shell last time and now it has lots of design elements in place.
If you are expecting a house like Monticello, you will be very disappointed, so don't come with any pre-conceived idea. Poplar Forest is unique and I love this house, it shows you the man the Thomas Jefferson had become in his old age.
A little more history. At Jefferson's death, the house passed to his grandson Francis Eppes. He only held onto it for two years. It had many owners and was much altered over the next 150 years. The land went from 4,000 acres down to 50.
Part of your tour will be to tell you about all the work that has happened here since it came into the hands of the non-profit which owns it now and what they are continuing to do. Poplar Forest is a work in progress.
You are free to wander around the grounds and there are rooms under the house to visit . The four room office wing has also been rebuilt and it is fascinating to look at all the things they found through their archaeological digs on the property.
Of particular interest are the octagonal privies that are in the yard. Work is ongoing on the property to restore the grounds to what they were when Jefferson escaped here.
For more information or to plan your visit check out their website.