Some of you might have heard about Monticello before. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, this iconic house is one of the architectural and historical highlights anywhere in the United States. Monticello House is the former home of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States and many other things. What most people don’t know, however, is that Thomas Jefferson had another plantation home in Virginia. This one is known as Poplar Forest Virginia.
Hidden, Quiet and Beautiful
Poplar Forest lies just south of Lynchburg, Virginia, and was Thomas Jefferson’s place of escape. If things got too hectic at Monticello, which they very often did, he went to Poplar Forest. At Monticello, people literally walked up and peeked through the windows, sometimes requesting an audience with the President. The secret service and other security agencies didn’t exist at the time—this was the turn of the 19th century—and U.S. Presidents and other notable politicians were pretty approachable. You could even walk up and into the White House in Washington, D.C. and ask to talk to the President—literally!
So, it’s no surprise that things could be a bit overwhelming for someone. In Jefferson’s case, they certainly were. At Monticello, he lived with his wife and extended family, including grandchildren. It definitely wasn’t a quiet place.
So, he went to Poplar Forest instead. There, Jefferson spent his time thinking, reading, writing and walking. He tried to keep the location of this plantation as unknown as possible, hardly ever receiving any visitors except for his own family. While he wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters while at Poplar Forest, he never once mentioned its location or gave directions to it.
Having inherited it from his father-in-law—Jefferson married well—in 1773, he didn’t start construction of a home at the plantation until 1806, during his presidency. After his presidency ended in 1809, Thomas Jefferson visited Poplar Forest three or four times a year, for periods that ranged in length from two weeks to two months.
Note that, just like Monticello, this was a plantation. This means that there were slaves working there at all times. In fact, plantation’s enslaved community consisted of between 60 and 100 men, women and children. When Jefferson wasn’t there, he still earned an income through the crops grown on the site.
Visiting Poplar Forest Virginia
After Jefferson’s death, the plantation changed hands quite often and became the subject of extensive renovations, development and other changes. Nearly lost to approaching development, a group of locals saved Poplar Forest Virginia in 1984. It opened to the public in the mid-1980’s. At that time, however, it didn’t look like it did when Jefferson lived there. Reconstruction is still well on its way today, but the building does once again have its former layout and look. Poplar Forest Virginia is now a National Historic Landmark and it’s considered to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just like its big brother Monticello.
The plantation house and surrounding gardens and buildings are open every day from mid-March through December, and on weekends in winter. If you’re into American history and culture, and specifically into all things Thomas Jefferson, Poplar Forest is a must-visit destination. You can’t fully understand America’s third president until you’ve visited this wonderful historic site.
Have You Ever Been to Thomas Jefferson’s Second Home? We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts in the Comments Below!