Architectural Restoration

Restoration Blog

Jan 7, 2023

Final Ornamental Elements Installed

The final ornamental part of Jefferson’s villa retreat was installed in November 2022. The parlor’s Ionic Order entablature received its frieze ornaments. Like those of the dining room’s Doric Order entablature, these had been ordered from English Sculptor William Coffee who at the time was working in New York City. These had not been installed […]

Jan 6, 2023

Historic Paints Bring the House to Life

In October 2022, we accomplished an important and exciting restoration task. Chris Mills and team members Brad Steward and Jenna Stillwell spent four weeks on site making traditional paint finishes for the interior woodwork and plaster walls. Few people have seen traditional hand-ground paint finishes like the distemper and pigmented lime washes for the plaster […]

Jan 6, 2023

Experiencing Old Places

by Travis McDonald, Director of Architectural Restoration Recently it was my pleasure to give Thompson Mayes a tour of Poplar Forest. Mayes is a vice president and senior counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was in Lynchburg to deliver a public lecture at Randolph College. Mayes was particularly interested in the restoration […]

Jan 6, 2023

Chimney Screen Restored

It is to our great fortune that Thomas Jefferson was a meticulous note taker. Museums such as Colonial Williamsburg credit the reconstruction of the Governor’s Palace to drawings he sketched, and the furniture it contained is known by inventories he wrote. In the case of Poplar Forest, it is the correspondence between craftsmen and Jefferson […]

Jan 6, 2023

The History and Restoration of Entablature Ornaments

On March 16, 1820, Thomas Jefferson wrote from Monticello to his overseer at Poplar Forest to say that William Coffee would be dropping by to see the house. “He is a very eminent artist in statuary and painting and a very estimable man, and will call at P.F. to see the house and if he […]

Jan 6, 2023

The Beauty and Resilience of Old-Growth Wood

As our restoration craftsmen created and installed the entablatures, we were reminded of the specie and quality of using salvaged old-growth poplar, the same material Jefferson used. The heartwood of old-growth poplar was just as prized for exterior elements as was old-growth pine. Jefferson specified that heart poplar should be used for the balusters in […]

Jan 6, 2023

Reconstructing the Entablatures

Between late 2018 and mid-2020 one of the biggest pieces of the restoration took shape. Pieces of the old-growth heart poplar lumber that had been hand-molded into individual parts by the restoration craftsmen were put together to form a Tuscan order entablature. The Tuscan order, the lowest of the classical Roman orders of architecture, now […]

Jan 6, 2023

Annual Refinishing of the Floors

The beginning of a new year can mean only one thing at Poplar Forest.  It’s time for the restoration staff to refinish the floors in the house. Typical of Jefferson, the original floors were not a common floor for Virginia, or even America. In a letter to carpenter John Perry in March 1808 Jefferson writes: […]

Jan 6, 2023

Restoring the Beauty of the Past

In September 2018 another piece of the architectural ensemble appeared in the house. White marble hearthstones replaced the temporary brick hearths that had also temporarily stood in for Jefferson for ten years. In 1819 stonemason John Gorman spent three weeks cutting, polishing and laying the local marble that was being quarried close to Lynchburg. Gorman later […]

Jan 6, 2023

Jefferson the Innovative Builder

By the time he came to design and build Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson was an experienced builder. He had started constructing his first house, what we refer to as Monticello 1, when he was 26. Jefferson’s design was not only significant for being a very academic and proper study of ancient, Renaissance and modern architecture, […]

Jan 6, 2023

2018 Ceiling Plaster Restoration

In 1809 the original lime plaster was started in the house to give Jefferson a more finished interior when he started using Poplar Forest. Unfortunately the work was not completed for several years. The discovery of many pieces of original wall plaster show that this lime material had brick dust added to strengthen its composition, […]

Jan 21, 2016

Winter Architectural Exhibit

As part of the Winter Weekend exhibits in the house, the unfinished East Room is an exhibit featuring three principal themes: Jefferson’s skill as an experienced builder; the role of physical evidence; and the authentic measures by which we are restoring the house. These first two themes are listed on a poster board. Visitors can […]