Location: Forest, Virginia
Original Architect: Thomas Jefferson
Period: 1806 - 1826
National Historic Landmark
In 1806, as Monticello was in the middle of a major expansion, Thomas Jefferson commenced building Poplar Forest, his small octagonal retreat outside Lynchburg, Virginia. Jefferson’s brilliant design of Poplar Forest envisioned a pure, almost crystalline form manifesting many of the architectural tenets of the enlightenment. Jefferson himself recognized its importance when he wrote that “it will be the best dwelling house in the state, except that of Monticello; perhaps preferable to that, as more proportioned to the faculties of a private citizen.” Jefferson kept his architectural achievement hidden from the public to protect his own privacy.
In 1845, twenty years after Jefferson’s death, Poplar Forest suffered a major fire that left only the brick shell intact. Later owners made the house into a common farm dwelling. In 1984, The Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest was formed to save and restore the house to the Jefferson period. MCWB was retained in early 1990 as architects for the project. Since then, it has been our responsibility to prepare a historic structure report, to assist the staff in an exhaustive multi-year investigation of surviving evidence of Jefferson’s building, to prepare large scale (1”=1’-0”) measured drawings of all interior surfaces based on surveyor-set datum lines and, finally, to develop designs and detailed drawings for the reconstruction of the entire Jefferson house.