Forest, VA: Forty years ago the rescue and restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s very private personal retreat was little more than the shared dream of the farseeing individuals who founded The Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest. The historic home–reopening to the public for daily tours and special events on Wednesday, March 15–has a lot to celebrate this season as the restoration of the villa is completed, the plantings along the newly restored carriage turnaround begin to mature and new exhibitions along the Poplar Forest Parkway and at the Quarter Site are unveiled.
In addition to touring Jefferson’s Palladian-inspired villa—considered by many to be his most perfect work of architecture—visitors to Poplar Forest in March and April are invited to hike the plantation grounds at their leisure, learn about members of the enslaved community at Poplar Forest through well-researched exhibits and celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary. Proceeds from special events at Poplar Forest help to support the ongoing restoration, preservation and interpretation of the historic property.
Wednesday, March 15 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Poplar Forest reopens for daily tours. Explore Jefferson’s private villa on an hour-long guided tour or take the Poplar Forest app audio tour at any time. Hear true stories and anecdotes about the Founding Father’s life at Poplar Forest and that of his enslaved workers, gleaned from his letters and diaries as well as archaeological evidence found on the grounds. A new exhibit at the Quarter Site introduces visitors to the men, women and children of the enslaved community at Poplar Forest; and new interpretive signs along the Poplar Forest Parkway provide insight into the work performed by the enslaved community who lived and labored on the plantation.
Admission to Poplar Forest includes a guided house tour or app audio tour of the Palladian-inspired villa, access to the exhibit at the Quarter Site and self-guided exploration of exhibits in the lower level of the house, the Wing of Offices, ornamental grounds and hiking trails. Admission fees: $18 for adults; $16 for seniors (ages 65+) and military (must show ID); $10 for college students (must show ID) and teens (ages 12-18); $6 for youth (ages 6-11); and free for children under age 6 and Poplar Forest members.
Opening Weekend Trail Hike
Saturday, March 18 from 1:00 p.m.
The natural beauty of the landscape at Poplar Forest captivated Thomas Jefferson. In fact, he compiled much of the material for his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, when he decamped to Poplar Forest to elude British capture in 1781. Join Dr. Eric Proebsting, the director of archaeology and landscapes, for an afternoon trek through the woodlands and meadows of Poplar Forest. Admission is $10 per person. Reservations are suggested.
Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday
Thursday, April 13 at 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s 280th birthday by spending the day at his beloved retreat. Explore the octagonal villa and grounds. Try your hand at colonial-era games such as ball and cup, quoits and rolling hoops; make a birthday card for the president; and enjoy a gourmet birthday cupcake from Kissed Cupcakes. You may even catch a glimpse of the guest of honor, Thomas Jefferson himself, as portrayed by Bill Barker, who will be on hand to greet well-wishers and welcome them to his home. All birthday activities are included with regular admission rates.
Lynchburg Garden Day
Tuesday, April 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Add a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s private villa and ornamental gardens to your Lynchburg Garden Day itinerary. An avid gardener and one of America’s first landscape designers, Jefferson was enthralled with the natural world, recording in his letters and journals his ideas for planning and planting the ornamental landscape at Poplar Forest. The recently completed restorations of Jefferson’s ornamental garden and carriage turnaround were made possible through the generosity of the Garden Club of Virginia. Although not an official stop on the Garden Day tour this year, admission to the Poplar Forest grounds is included with your Lynchburg Garden Day ticket.
40th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, April 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Join Thomas Jefferson himself, portrayed by veteran interpreter Bill Barker, for a day-long celebration marking the 40th anniversary of the formation of The Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and the completion of the restoration of the octagonal villa after 34 years. Enjoy a ride around the carriage turnaround in Poplar Forest’s reproduction phaeton (an open horse-drawn carriage); tour the octagonal villa on a docent-guided tour or with the Poplar Forest app; learn more about the lives of the enslaved community; and participate in hands-on-activities such as quill pen writing. Travis McDonald, Poplar Forest’s director of architectural restoration, will be giving a talk about and signing his new book, Poplar Forest: Thomas Jefferson’s Villa Retreat, at 1:00 p.m.
40th Anniversary Gala
Friday, April 28 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Join Poplar Forest for an evening of cocktails and dinner to toast four decades of rescue, restoration and new discoveries at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest and celebrate the work of Poplar Forest’s Director of Architectural Restoration Travis McDonald, who will retire in June after 34 years, leading the restoration from start to finish.
The evening begins with a cocktail hour in the dinner tent, followed by a multi-course wine dinner catered by Purple Door Catering; an auction; live music by the Steve Freeman Band; and dancing. In addition to Thomas Jefferson, special guests for the evening include, J. Jefferson Looney, Daniel P. Jordan Editor of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello Retirement Series, who will talk about Jefferson in retirement, including stories focused specifically on Jefferson’s time at Poplar Forest.
Attend the celebration as a VIP and enjoy a private cocktail hour in Jefferson’s villa retreat with Thomas Jefferson, portrayed by interpreter Bill Barker, and Martha Wayles Jefferson, his wife, portrayed by interpreter Nicole Brown.
Tickets to the 40th Anniversary Gala are $150 per person for general admission and $250 per person for VIP admission. VIP admission includes cocktail hour in the historic house and valet parking. Reservations are required and must be made by April 19th due to catering considerations.
Conversations with Thomas Jefferson and Martha Jefferson
Saturday, April 29 at 7:00 p.m. at the Academy Center of the Arts
Step back in time to experience a conversation between Thomas Jefferson and his beloved wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson. Join Poplar Forest at the Academy Center of the Arts for an exclusive presentation of Conversations presented by actors Bill Barker as Thomas Jefferson and Nicole Brown as Martha Jefferson. Tickets for the performance followed by a reception are $38 for adults, $20 for students (must show ID) plus taxes and fees. Tickets for Conversations must be purchased through the Academy Center of the Arts box office online through poplarforest.org or by calling 434.846.8499.
For more information or tickets to special events at Poplar Forest, call the Museum Shop at 434.534.8120 or visit poplarforest.org.