The approach to restoration of Jefferson’s octagonal house at Poplar Forest is unique. Instead of focusing merely on the end result, contemporary masons and carpenters are using the same building methods Jefferson’s craftsmen used, and visitors can watch them at work.
All those who have guided the rescue of Thomas Jefferson’s retreat since the beginning have recognized that the special nature and significance of Poplar Forest warranted more than a typical house museum approach. The nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson’s Poplar Forest is committed to preserving and restoring Thomas Jefferson’s retreat to the highest possible standards of quality and stewardship. The continued restoration of the house and grounds provides the correct setting for fully understanding Jefferson’s design and intent.
What Makes the Restoration of Poplar Forest a Unique and Successful Project?
- An idealistic attitude from Board of Directors to “do it right”
- Reliance on the professional team of staff, advisors and consultants to determine what is “right”
- A philosophy that the preservation and integrity of the Jeffersonian artifact (the house and grounds) is of the highest importance
- A team approach with a permanent staff (architecture and archaeology) working with architectural consultants and prominent advisory panels of architectural restoration and archaeology professionals
- No artificial, unrealistic deadlines impeding accurate and thorough investigation and restoration
- No compromise on quality: it is more important to do it correctly rather than to do it quickly
- Using the process of investigation, discovery, restoration, and reconstruction as something to be interpreted to the public, in addition to the history and use of the property
- Conducting a “Jeffersonian” construction project as much as possible using early 19th century techniques
- Uniquely following the historical sequence of how Jefferson built and finished the house
- Using the project as a training center for craftsmen and archaeologists who have worked here; for sub-contractors who have learned new skills; and for young professionals and students who have attended field schools in restoration and archaeology for nearly 20 years
“Re-creating early-nineteenth century techniques and processes has given us great insights. By doing the work in the same manner, we have had many more unforeseen questions and challenges, but we have learned a lot about the reality of constructing something like this. In a sense, we are repeating history.”
Director of Architectural Restoration