Poplar Forest is one of two personal residences that Thomas Jefferson designed for himself, the other being Monticello. Jefferson’s wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, inherited the land—originally a 6,861-acre parcel—at her father’s death in 1773, but Jefferson did not begin construction on the house until 1806, and at his death in 1826, he was still working on his little "getaway." Despite its audacious design—it was the first documented octagonal residence in America—and the fact that it is one of the very few extant Jeffersonian structures, Poplar Forest is not nearly so well-known today as its sibling seventy miles to the northeast. Undoubtedly, this is due in large part to its more remote location in Bedford County. Additionally, the house remained in private hands until 1984.

Travis McDonald situates the site in its rightful position as a historically important Virginia house, and he documents its story as central to Jefferson’s life and approach to architecture, including details of the enslaved community at his western retreat. This new, informed account will appeal to architectural historians and visitors to the villa retreat, as well as to those interested in Jefferson’s work and legacy.

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