Architectural Restoration

Restoration Blog

Sep 21, 2023

The Final Piece of Restoration

This year we have been focusing on the big milestones of the 40th anniversary and the completion of the historic house. Although Jefferson was happy to consider the house basically done before most of the major woodwork was finished, we found it more difficult to pin down at exactly what moment we would declare the house […]

Aug 23, 2023

Poplar Forest awarded the 2023 John Russell Pope Award for Artisanship

The architectural and landscape restorations of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest have set many precedents and received numerous accolades. In April, the meticulous craftsmanship that drove the restoration of the Palladian-inspired villa was awarded the 2023 John Russell Pope Award for Artisanship by the Washington Mid Atlantic Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art […]

Aug 23, 2023

Restoration turns to Preservation

This past month we have been pressing forward with the preservation of the wood fixtures on the roof. It is incredible how quickly water can wreak havoc once it finds its way through the paint. To effectively repair the rot and paint damage, the scope of work has been narrowed to one straight run of […]

Jul 17, 2023

The House is Restored…Now what?

“I never thought I’d live long enough to see it finished,” a sentiment shared by long-time docents, board members, and supporters of the 40-year experiment to faithfully restore Poplar Forest.   Here we are at the most anticipated milestone in the history of this home, and the number one question we receive is: “What now?”  It’s […]

Apr 17, 2023

Jefferson Improves on Palladio

After decades of studying Thomas Jefferson’s architecture, both at Poplar Forest and in general, I conclude that he had only one architectural invention: the “terras roof” feature. This was a design he used tenaciously for more than twenty years in several places, always tweaking it for greater performance. It provided a useable “flat” roof above an attached […]

Jan 31, 2023

A Very Private Space

One of the fundamental aspects of Poplar Forest was privacy. The plan and use of the house indicated its private nature.  Jefferson struggled with the design regarding where the staircase should go in this two-story house. In order to not interfere with its geometric design, Jefferson stuck two stair pavilions on each side of the […]

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 […]