Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's plantation retreat and architectural masterpiece, offers insight into the community of enslaved workers that took shape on the property during Jefferson's 54 years of ownership. Many of these enslaved individuals labored to sustain the plantation, while others worked alongside free artisans to create Jefferson's octagonal house and designed landscape. Jefferson called Poplar Forest his most valuable possession not only because of its unusual architectural design, but also because he derived much of his income from the sale of the plantation crops grown there which included tobacco and wheat. As many as 94 enslaved men, women, and children resided on the property.
The 500-acre Poplar Forest site contains Jefferson's octagonal brick house and remnants of his designed grounds set in a landscape of fields and woodlands. The home is undergoing restoration, with exterior work complete. The rebuilding of a wing of service rooms that contained working and living quarters is currently underway. A ghost building on the site of former slave quarters gives visitors an idea of the size and location of the slave cabins. Archaeological investigations of the plantation landscape and community are ongoing. To date, three separate slave quarters have been excavated: The North Hill Site (c. 1770s or 1780s); the Quarter Site (inhabited 1790-1812); and Site A (c. 1830s to emancipation). Exhibits are located in the archaeology laboratory and restoration workshop as well as in the basement of the house.
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