By Hope S. Philbrick
You might walk around Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s famed home in Charlottesville, Virginia, and think it’s incredibly peaceful and relaxing. The grounds! The architecture! The views!
But things aren’t what they were when Thomas Jefferson was alive.
For starters, he had to deal with more people. People would pester him for attention because they were workers seeking instruction, children and grandchildren seeking attention, admirers stopping by for a visit, messengers waiting for replies, and others. This was a guy who wrote thousands of letters, read thousands of books, loved to ponder the big questions and jot down his own thoughts about matters of all sizes. This was a guy who valued his alone time.
Of the only two homes that Jefferson designed for his personal use—Monticello and Poplar Forest—Poplar Forest was the one where he “came to indulge in the life of the mind and renew his personal creativity,” according to a site visitors guide.
The retreat is on land that Jefferson inherited from his father-in-law in 1773. In 1806, he supervised construction of the octagonal house that can be seen today. When his presidency ended in 1809, he retreated to the place multiple times a year.
Now a National Historic Landmark, Poplar Forest is open for daily tours. Join a guided tour for a formal introduction, then stroll the grounds to see more sites at your leisure and read placards with additional information.
The house is a must-see. If you’ve been to Monticello, it can feel a bit familiar and that’s part of the fun—you can see his personality and architectural preferences shining in alongside the sunlight in each room.
Guides are enthusiastic and well-informed. One guy on my tour obviously worked in construction; whenever he asked a question the tour guide launched into a fascinating explanation about a topic he clearly understood but otherwise might not have broached let alone delved into details. So feel free to ask whatever pops into your head.
How Far Is Poplar Forest from Monticello?
According to Google Maps, it’s a 78.7 mile route that will take approximately 1 hour and 29 minutes.
How is the Poplar Forest Gift Shop?
It’s worth a stop! You’ll find T-shirts, books, local snacks, housewares, and much more.
5 Great Thomas Jefferson Quotes
“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.”
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
“I cannot live without books.”
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest
1542 Bateman Bridge Rd.
Forest, Virginia 24551
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
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