Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poplar Forest

Jefferson went all out when he built his octagonal retreat near Bedford VA. It's a square within an octagon with paired stairwells, chimneys and outdoor privies. The tour guide was serious about the house and all the work the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest has done for the property. Like any old house, there was a fire and multiple owners, who didn't always share Jefferson's symmetric vision. With all this havoc over the last 200 years, there's been plenty of restoring to do. The Corporation has gone to great lengths to restore the house to what Jefferson intended. Currently the house is being renovated in stages which provide examples of every stage of the process.

One of the more interesting facts is that the fire was probably a product of Jefferson's obsession with symmetry. He ran one of the flues from the center room at an angle so it would meet up with one of the four chimneys. It is believed that accumulated soot and debris in the non-vertical flue caught on fire spreading to the house.

On each side of the house T.J. had a mound built. They were popular in Europe at the time. There are mounds like them at the White House called Jefferson's Mounds.

View from a mound To get there from Charlottesville take 29 South to 460 W. Continue for 14 miles. Take a right on T.J. Road (811). Turn right on Bateman Bridge Road (661) which leads right to it. There are signs along the way.

For those more accustomed to Jefferson's Charlottesville area architecture, such as Monticello, UVA, even the Barboursville ruin, Poplar Forest is the place where Jefferson elevated the artistry of a building over its utility, hence the fire.

The New York Times recently had something to say about Jefferson's two Virginia residences.

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