It was off to Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest today. Before I get to the history lesson, I have a GPS story. Before we left Paradise Lake, I located poplar forest on the GPS. We started following the directions as GPS spoke them. We even saw some signs before we made turns of the main roads. We were getting near the destination when we needed to make a left turn onto a small side road. As we rounded the bend the road turned to gravel. We went about 100 yards on gravel and came to a one lane bridge over the railroad tracks. This bridge looked like it was built by Jefferson in the 19th century. We decided to back out and try another way. We eventually found the front entrance to the estate, but it was a narrow one lane gravel road about a mile long. When we got to the entrance center I said something to the person working there about our GPS problems. They said they were aware of the problem because a lot of people have complained and apparently had gotten in touch with the GPS manufacturers to let them know with no resolution.
Poplar Forest was Jefferson’s “vacation” home. He and his wife Martha inherited the property, over 4,800 acres. In 1773, but didn’t do much with it until the early 1800’s although he spent a couple of months on the property during the Revolutionary War to escape the British who came after him at Monticello. He designed and built the octagonal house for getting away from the pressures of the White House. The property was managed as working plantation with various edible crops, tobacco, and livestock. After he left the Presidency in 1809 he would visit Poplar Forest 3 or 4 times a year for 2 weeks to 2 months at a time. It was only 90 miles from Monticello, but it those days it would take him 2-3 days to get there by coach. His last visit was in 1823. His grandson inherited the property, but sold it 2 years after Jefferson died. The next owners, the Cobbs-Hutter family, kept it for 118 years. The house and about 500 acres were purchased by the Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest in 1983 and began the restoration of the house and ground. They’ve done a lot of work over the past 28 years and the house is nearly back to its original design. There’s a lot of interior restoration work going on and it was interesting to see how the house was constructed. The walls are all brick covered with lathe and plaster. The work areas (kitchen, laundry, smokehouse, and storage were in a service area built at ground level off to one side. Everything at the house is symmetrical except the service wing. Apparently Jefferson’s grandson was supposed to add the second service wing, but never got around to it in the few years that he owned it.
On the way back we took a little detour (not like the one in Luray), to see Concrete World, another Roadside America attraction. What a disappointment. Not even worth any pictures. It was sort of a garden store that sold concrete lawn ornaments. Nothing special.