Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Project documenting the forests at the Poplar Forest owned by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia.

Moderators: edfrank, dbhguru

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 4217
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 5:46 pm

Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Post by edfrank » Sat May 08, 2010 5:55 pm


Here is some backgroud information on Poplar Forest. Most of it is taken from the Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest website listed below:
Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha inherited the Bedford County plantation known as Poplar Forest from her father in 1773. The property’s name, which predates Jefferson’s ownership, reflects the forest that once grew here. Several stately poplars in front of the home welcome visitors today.

The 4,819-acre plantation provided Jefferson with significant income and the perfect setting where he could pursue his passion for reading, writing, studying and gardening after retiring from public life.

Click on image to see its original size

An artistic rendering of what the Poplar Forest landscape may have looked like based on what we know from Jefferson’s documents and from archaeology.

Jefferson’s vision for his retreat was an integration of the natural and architectural – a retreat environment with roots in the Roman concept of a rural villa. He chose a site in the midst of his working plantation at Poplar Forest to take that vision from idea to reality.

Jefferson’s retreat design drew from elements of Roman and Palladian traditions. Like the Roman villa concept, the approximately rectangular, 61-acre space or curtilage Jefferson delineated as his retreat environment combined the ornamental with the functional. That space, which Jefferson called the “curtilage,” may have featured orchards, gardens and support buildings.

The octagonal house sat at the heart of that personal space. From it radiated the geometry of much of his landscape: the house sat within a circular drive, which was set within a 10-acre square space, which sat within the approximately rectangular 61-acre curtilage.

The most highly ornamental part of the design is believed to lie within the circle. To create the circle, Jefferson laid a road “540 yds round” and lined it with paper mulberry trees.

In Europe, Jefferson had seen mounds placed away from the houses to serve as vantage points for surveying ornamental grounds. Here, Jefferson placed his mounds close to the house, planted them with circles of aspens and willows, and used them as a component of his symmetrical landscape.

In the 1980s Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat became endangered— threatened by encroaching redevelopment of central Virginia’s farmland. Jefferson’s 4,812-acre plantation was whittled down to a mere 50 acres containing the house and two other remaining original buildings that Jefferson had designed. The rest of Jefferson’s farm was rapidly carved into subdivision tracts and housing construction began. Only the neighboring community knew what stood in the path of this development. In total, the nonprofit now owns 577 acres of Jefferson’s plantation retreat free and clear, and has taken title to another 39 acres with bank loans while it seeks funds to complete the rescue of that land.
Poplar Forest Facebook Page:

Visit Poplar Forest

Plan your visit to Thomas Jefferson's retreat home, Poplar Forest.

Kyle At Poplar Forest

"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky

User avatar
Posts: 4570
Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:34 pm

Re: Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Post by dbhguru » Wed May 12, 2010 10:22 am


Thanks for posting this. Hopefully, it will remind our Ents members of what ENTS is involved with. I admit to enjoying the feeling of being associated with such prestigious endeavors. Since none of us are getting paid a dime for our efforts, in fact we spend our money to accomplish the mission, association with places like Poplar Forest gives us (me anyway) with the psychic income and sense of mission fulfillment that we need to keep going and pushing the envelope.

Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

Post Reply

Return to “Poplar Forest Project”