Across Virginia

Jefferson’s Poplar Forest Retreat

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Poplar Forest
Poplar Forest. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons License

Monticello might get its fair share of visitor action up in Charlottesville. But just down the road lies Poplar Forest, the retreat home of none other than Virginia’s favorite son, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and the country’s third President, was looking for privacy, solitude, and renewal in this location. He sought to have his own Roman rural villa in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When visitors enter the grounds of Poplar Forest, they may feel as if they have stepped into another world. It is an enchanted forest of sorts, between the lush green trees and bushes and gravel road that leads them on the path to the entrance.

The property, which is about 10 miles southwest of Lynchburg in the Shenandoah Valley, was sold shortly after Jefferson’s death, and the villa retreat died along with him. The house and grounds were in utter shambles, well on their way to deterioration. The Poplar Forest we know today is the result of painstaking, lovingly made restorations in historic architectural preservation and landscape preservation.

A non-profit corporation formed in 1983 to undertake the restoration. In 1984, it acquired the deed to the 50 acres and remnants of the building. They opened to the public in 1986, and the corporation and visitor donations led to the gradual restoration of the estate.

Visitor Activities

So what do visitors do when they come? They take one of the guided tours that are available and last about 40 minutes or choose to take a self-guided tour of the grounds. Celebrations of high magnitude take place on Memorial Day and Independence Day. These family-friendly events occur rain or shine.

The candlelight tours around the holidays are magical, as is the annual holiday open house in December. The Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival held each November draws large crowds. Poplar Forest also offers archaeological field digs, summer camps and an architectural restoration field school.

For a place that came so close to being lost forever, Poplar Forest has made tremendous strides in its preservation efforts. The home is now listed as a National Historic Landmark and is currently in consideration as a World Heritage Site.

Poplar Forest Hours

Open daily from March 15 to Dec. 30. Gates open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the last tour closing at 4:05 p.m. The property closes at 5 p.m.

Winter weekend hours available from January to March: Gates open from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. with the last tour closing at 3:05 p.m. The property closes at 4:00 p.m.

Closed Easter, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.

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