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Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (part 2)

Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (part 2)

By on Apr 19, 2014 in Presidents | 5 comments

Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. You can see Uncle Joe in the corner of the photo.

Thomas Jefferson’s accomplishments are well-known, but did you know he has his own color? That’s just one of the things we learned at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (its full name), Jefferson’s country villa in southwestern Virginia.

My aunt Viola, uncle Joe and I visited this country estate when I was  visiting them for Easter in 2013.  It is best to get help from a probate lawyer to manage and plan such estate effectively. In the previous post, I wrote about some of Poplar Forest’s history and its much-talked about octagonal privies. In this post, we’ll get a little more into the tour and the house itself.

We bought tour tickets in the gift shop (you can also get them online). After watching a video, our guide took us outside to survey the house and property, but it too windy to stay very long. Our guide then led our seven-member group to the front of the house

Just like Jefferson’s more famous Monticello, the back of Poplar Forest is probably the more photographed facade. Here’s the front of the house, which of course looks very similar to the front of Monticello.

Poplar Forest, front entrance

Poplar Forest, front entrance

All the trim at Poplar Forest is painted in "Jefferson green."

All the trim at Poplar Forest is painted in “Jefferson green.”

As we were standing on the front porch our guide pointed out the color on the shutters and bench, a hue she said was called “Jefferson Green.” I would call it “Sesame Street” green.

We then entered the house itself, which we learned has been through a lot, including several fires. You can’t take photos inside the house (you also can’t bring backpacks). There was a lot of renovation in the works, which I think helped make the tour more interesting for Uncle Joe.

We saw a lot of exposed walls and floors, but there are a few pieces of furniture, including an octagonal dining room table under the central dome (significant because they have the original bill of sale and significant to me because my mom had an octagonal dining room table).

It was interesting to learn how the crews are trying to use the early 19th century techniques in the restoration; plasterers from Scotland came to teach the local crews.  A nonprofit organization is leading the restoration. There is also a lot of archaeological work at Poplar Forest.

On the tour, you’ll also learn about Jefferson’s design plans, which the website describes as “a lifetime of ideas and travel.”

You can walk on roof of the wing before going downstairs to look at the exibits

You can walk on roof of the wing before going downstairs to look at the exhibits

After the house tour, we stepped onto the roof of wing, which apparently did not used to have railings (it is a little high).  Up there though, you can really get close and examine the house’s details.

You can get up close and personal to Jefferson's house when you take a walk on the roof of the wing

You can get up close and personal to Jefferson’s house when you take a walk on the roof of the wing

We then walked down the hill to the rooms underneath, which featured exhibits about the house’s history and construction.

There are some interesting five-sided bricks, which you would need when you build an octagonal house. The design may be nice, but it certainly makes things more complicated.

Historic photo of Poplar Forest

Historic photo of Poplar Forest

Five-sided brick at Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest

Five-sided brick at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Downstairs,  you can also look at exhibits in the kitchen and cook’s room. Like Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest does not gloss over the issue of slavery.  You can learn about the slaves who lived and worked there, as well as the slaves involved in its construction.

After taking some pictures on the grounds, we ventured back into the well-stocked gift shop where we got this picture with Mr. Jefferson himself  sporting a lovely scarf.

Thomas Jefferson is showing off a lovely scarf in the Poplar Forest gift shopt

Thomas Jefferson is showing off a lovely scarf in the Poplar Forest gift shop

A trio of souvenirs Nerd Trips in the spring of 2013

A trio of souvenirs Nerd Trips from the spring of 2013

I passed on the scarf, but I did buy this Thomas Jefferson doll, which I confess is not nearly as cute as the Woodrow Wilson doll I purchased two days early at Wilson’s birthplace. However, Jefferson is really working that orange vest with those green pants and boots. And who’s that guy with them? That’s Booker T. Washington; we visited his birthplace later that day.

If you need more details about Poplar Forest (address, website, etc), here’s a link to our  “On the Map” page.

In our next post,  you’ll learn what the famous “T” stands for in Booker T. Washington and what else we saw at his national site.


  1. Thanks, Sharon, for the virtual tour of Poplar Forest! I’ll have to get there on another trip to Virginia. It’s amazing that Monticello and Poplar Forest seem so similar. Thanks for sharing your visit there with your readers in your very well-written posting!

    • Thanks Mike. I wish we could have taken photos inside! While Monticello and Poplar Forest are very similar, there are some differences. Definitely worth a visit.

      • Yes, it would have been nice to see photos from inside, but many historic attractions don’t allow this. Thanks for the strong recommendation that it’s definitely worth a visit. I’ll add it to the ever-lengthening list of places I want to visit!

  2. I wonder what makes the green “Jefferson.”

    • I think it’s probably because Jefferson used that color, so they called it “Jefferson green.” I remember on a tour of Mt. Vernon, the guide said that Washington chose green for his dining room to reflect his connection to nature and farming. I am not so thoughtful in my paint color choices, in fact, I have trouble choosing a color!

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