Poplar Forest – in progress

Located outside of Lynchburg, the 5000-acre plantation was Thomas Jefferson’s personal retreat. While eluding British capture in 1781, he compiled much of the material for his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, at Poplar Forest. On behalf of The Garden Club of Virginia and in conjunction with Poplar Forest’s archaeologist, we were involved in three important projects. The first was the restoration of the west allée of paper mulberry trees that lead from the west side of the house to the mound. The exact location of the original trees was determined through archaeology.  Planted in 2011, the trees are already filling the space and providing the shade as envisioned by Jefferson. The second project was the restoration of four ornamental clumps and oval beds that once existed at four corners of the octagonal house. The third and final part of the Phase 1 restoration involves the carriage turnaround and central oval bed which frame the approach to the house and, as such, is a critical part of Jefferson’s ornamental landscape. The original turnaround consisted of gathered quartz rocks pounded into the ground by enslaved people. It is preserved in place with the new carriage turnaround installed atop it. Rocks found on a nearby farm match the geologic profile of the original quartz and have been crushed to a size that reflects the original stones. The rocks are set in a bed of mortar, colored to match the soil that was present between the stones in Jefferson’s time. The last piece is a “window to the ground”, a custom designed stainless steel frame embedded in the concrete slab, which supports a clear acrylic window with a view of Jefferson’s original carriage turnaround.