Poplar Forest

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

Poplar Forest, located in Bedford County, Virginia, was designed and built by Thomas Jefferson and was used as his personal retreat. William Stith originally patented the property in the first half of the eighteenth century, and is most likely the person who gave it its name. In 1764, John Wayles, Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law, purchased the property from Col. P. Randolph, and in 1773, Martha Jefferson inherited it from her father upon his death.[1]

Thomas Jefferson began building the house at Poplar Forest in 1806 and finished it in 1809. Constructed of brick, it is octagonal in shape and has pedimented porticoes on low arcades at the north and south facades. The interior was rebuilt following a fire in 1845; thus, only the walls, chimneys, and columns are original. Although interior woodwork is not original, the house follows the same floor-plan as designed by Jefferson. In addition to the main house, the original separate kitchen, as well as the smokehouse and two octagonal outhouses still exist.[2]

Following Jefferson’s death in 1826, the property was willed to his grandson, Francis Eppes, who sold it two years later, in 1828. The property was purchased by the Cobbs-Hutter family, who owned it for more than a century, before selling it in 1946. In 1984 the Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, a nonprofit foundation created specifically to protect and restore the property and to make it open to the public, purchased Poplar Forest.[3]


  1. S. Allen Chambers, Jr. Poplar Forest and Thomas Jefferson (Little Compton, RI: Fort Church Publishers, Inc., 1993), 3-4.
  2. Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
  3. Chambers, xiii.

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