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Jefferson's second home celebrates

Thomas Jefferson's vacation home was an octagon set on 600 acres of farmland and forest.
Thomas Jefferson's Poplar Forest
Thomas Jefferson's vacation home was an octagon set on 600 acres of farmland and forest.

Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s official home, but when he needed a break from the action there, he would retreat to a small, octagonal house near Lynchburg. 

“He came often by himself or with his granddaughters to read and study," says Alyson Ramsey , president of the historic site Jefferson called Poplar Forest. "He actually hiked the peaks of otter and did mathematics while he was here trying to calculate the elevations.”

At his vacation home Jefferson kept a thousand books and about a hundred slaves who grew tobacco, wheat and other crops on the 600-acre plantation.

“Poplar forest was incredibly important to Jefferson because it was a primary source of his income,” Ramsey explains.

But after his death, the property passed to a series of private owners.  When, in 1983, developers contemplated building there, area residents organized to save Poplar Forest for the public. On April 28th they will celebrate their success.

“Beginning at 10 a.m. with Thomas Jefferson arriving via carriage,” Ramsey says. “We’ll have rides on the carriage and photos with the public.  Our director of restoration Travis MacDonald has written a book about Poplar Forest, so he’ll give a short talk and do a book signing.”

The hands-on history center will offer activities for kids, and everyone is invited to tour the house, followed at 6 by a ticketed fundraiser – cocktails, dinner and dancing.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief