Poplar Forest’s Department of Archaeology and Landscapes is currently focused on a multi-phase project of landscape research and restoration. Through archaeological research we will investigate several ornamental landscape features in order to restore them to their Jefferson-era appearance. These landscape-related projects are generously supported by the Garden Club of Virginia and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Excavations are currently centered on the northern corners of Jefferson’s retreat house looking for the remains of two ornamental tree clumps and two oval flower beds planted in 1812 and 1816. These excavations are designed to determine the full extent and arrangement of these plantings in order to restore them.
Previously, the archaeologists were busy excavating a large area between Jefferson’s retreat house and the west mound looking for the remains of paper mulberry trees planted here in 1812. These excavations were designed to determine the exact number and spacing of two rows of paper mulberry trees that Jefferson planted to create naturalistic wings in the Palladian style. Archaeologists found the stains in the ground where different trees once grew. Specialists are now analyzing the charcoal, pollen, and soil from these plant stains to help archaeologists determine which of these features are associated with the paper mulberry trees. Poplar Forest will use this data to accurately replant these trees in their original locations.
In addition, archaeologists will continue field school excavations southeast of the main house near an antebellum slave cabin and Jefferson’s ornamental plant nursery. You can learn more about the artifacts and features found in this area by visiting our articles and publications, podcast series, or the Site B Online Exhibit. This year’s excavations are designed to reveal the remains of a large building that dates to the early nineteenth-century, which may be part of a stable located in front of Jefferson’s plant nursery.