Poplar Forest – A Rural Retreat for Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday, the mother unit and I went to Poplar Forest

Contrary to your best Futurama Fan’s assumption, it is not forest of Popplers..


Now that we’ve cleared that up… onto a rundown of the field trip.

First off, let me say it was super pretty out in Bedford county.  I had only been through there once or twice in passing, and not in a way that i could see the Blue Ridge Mountains… Wowza… They were amazing.

Second thing is that I honestly was expecting the main building of Poplar Forest to be a little bigger!  I think it just looked smaller with the land and landscaping all around.  One of the things they did when they dug the foundation and made a sunken lawn was to put two mounds of dirt on either side of the main house.  This made it look shorter.  As we went through the tour, they kept remarking on things Jefferson did to reduce his tax burden… As soon as that clicked in my mind I said to myself …. Self, maybe he put those mounds there to make the house look smaller for real estate appraisers….  Joking of course, but still. 🙂

The way Poplar Forest works is you go in the gift shop area and purchase your tour ticket.  It’s $14 per adult, with 10% off if you have AAA.  Prices go down if you’re a kid, a senior, etc.  They allow dogs! But request you kennel them in their guest dog quarters while you take the tour… so poor Mr.Theron would not be able to partake.
You get assigned a tour time and told where to meet your tour.  The main floor of the house is a guided tour, the rest of the grounds are self guided.  They do have these cool GPS initiated hand held audio/visual things you can carry around… but we saw one guy with his and he was there for a couple hours – just with that- and we decided against it this time.
While we waited for the tour to start, we checked out the grounds and the outdoor privy.  It still has the original seat apparently. 🙂

No photos in the inside of Poplar Forest’s main floor…  But allowed elsewhere.


There were some really cool things about this building.

  • It was octagonal.
  • There were 5 rooms or chambers that were along the outside walls…  as you first enter the foyer, you could go straight into the middle room, right or left.  We went right.  All of the rooms had doorways that led to and from another room. Except the parlour, that one just had a way in, and a terrace.
  • That was a chamber or storage room.  It was kinda small, but they guide said it was likely where Jefferson’s manservant would have stayed.  There was a small fireplace and huge windows.  Seemed cozy!
  • With passing onto the next room, you could see the house wasn’t just brick on the exterior, but also the interior walls were constructed with brick, which was plastered over and then painted.  Not  wood studs and drywall like our brick house.  That helped with the fire of 1845 to keep the house intact and able to be reconstructed now!
  • Beyond that chamber/manservant room was Jefferson’s room.  This room was really interesting.  He had two fireplaces, one towards the front of the room, one towards the back.  And in the middle he had this thing called an alcove bed… I want one… Sincerely.

    They started referencing Monticello a TON; which of course furthered my desire to go to Charlottesville and visit Monticello. 🙂
    Jefferson’s room also had a stairway down to his own indoor privy and to the lower level.  Apparently he didn’t originally have those items on the blueprints but added them when he realized what a pain it was to have to go out the front door, all the way around the house to the back side to enter the lower level.  The story was stairs were expensive.  He’s as frugal as Hubs. 🙂

  • The next room from Jefferson’s was the dining room.  This was also the center room of the home.  It was a 20′ by 20′ room, with a small fireplace in the corner (the fireplace that caused the 1845 fire).  He was reported to have a mahogany table in there.  And he was taxed on the mahogany table.  When w first entered the tour guide told us the doors were pine painted to look like mahogany (just like at Monticello and UVA, apparently), so I was surprised he used the real deal in there!  They also had a replica of the dumbwaiter that Jefferson had in his dining room there.  He was a very suspicious fellow and didn’t want anyone eavesdropping…. The kitchen staff were to put the food on the dumbwaiter and then immediately exit the house.  This room, being the central room, had doorways that led out to the parlor (where we visited next), as well as to Jefferson’s bedroom, a matching/similar bedroom across the way and to the main entry way to the house.  
  • Parlor…. Source
  • The parlor was amazing… and the only room I really was sad not to be able to take pictures of.  There were fireplaces at each side, and there were french doors leading out to a terrace/veranda.  Gorgeous. There were triple hung windows (basically floor to ceiling), two on each side of the doors.  It made the room feel like part of the outdoors.  Amazing.  The view today, even without the landscaping as Jefferson had was amazing.  I can only imagine how it would have been in his time. 🙂
  • The final room was a second chamber, identical to the first chamber we entered.

That ended the tour of the home…  and on our own we were!


First stop, we walked out on the terrace above the “Wing of Dependency”….  It was nice, I could see how it would be something fun to do each night while watching the bats and animals and looking at the mountains.
Then we, of course, checked out the “Wing of Dependency”… We looked at the rooms in order of closest to the house, to furthest.  Each had their own entry way, and were connected by an outside promenade.

  • The first room was thought to be cold storage for dairy, as it did not have a fireplace.  
  • The second room was the kitchen with fireplace, a baking oven, a kettle hole thing, and a few other little cooking areas.  
  • The third was storage and the cook’s room when Jefferson was in residency…. (The rest of the time she lived with her family in the slave quarters).
  • The fourth was the smokehouse.

We toured the grounds a little after that…. Checked out the rose garden, checked out the slave quarters, checked out some other outbuildings that were added by the families that lived there after Jefferson’s time.


The thing I hadn’t thought about was that other families lived in Poplar Forest between Jefferson’s time and now and they had really altered a lot of it.  I know it should be fairly obvious, but i forget national landmarks are a lot of work to get to where we can enjoy them in their “original” setting.

It was a gorgeous day, and a great field trip…
And of course, no day with my mom is complete without the required Kroger trip….  We stopped at the HUGE one out in Bonsack… We got snackage (apples, nuts etc) to have for a late lunch.

When we finally got home there was a sketchy vehicle parked in front of my neighbor’s house… two guys were in it.  One in his early-mid 50’s, the other in his 20’s.  They weren’t appearing to be waiting for anyone… they sat out there for proabably an hour before they finally left.  I kept giving them the stink eye, but they didn’t move.  When we finally parked our tushes out front in the chairs to play boggle they finally left.  Really really really weird.  No worries, I watch enough NCIS to have gotten most of the plate number, make, model etc. 🙂

Then Theron knocked down the firepit…. Thank goodness there was no fire going on at that time.  A dog walked by… yup, that’s all it takes with him.  Enter full on exitement mode and attempts to free himself from the tie out….As an aside… a similar thing happned Friday when he knocked down a chair when another dog went by…

And dinner was El Rodeo’s!!


Not sure what we have planned for today… it’ll be hard to top that!


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