You may know him as the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, but Thomas Jefferson did much more than that. April 13, Jefferson’s birthday, is also National Thomas Jefferson Day. Take some time to brush up on your historical knowledge and learn about his retreat property in Forest.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743, at Shadwell, a farm just outside of present day Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1762, he graduated from the College of William and Mary, where it has been reported that he enjoyed studying for 15 hours, and then practicing his violin for several more hours each day. While there were no law schools at the time, Jefferson went on to study law under a prominent Virginia attorney, and began working as a lawyer in 1767. He went on to serve on Virginia’s House of Burgesses from 1769 to 1775.
In 1775, the American Revolution had begun, and Jefferson was asked to serve on the Second Continental Congress. Due to his gifted ability in writing, he was asked to draft the Declaration of Independence. After stepping down from the Continental Congress, Jefferson served as governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. In 1785, he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as U.S. minister to France, where he stayed until the fall of 1789.
Upon his return to America, Jefferson was appointed by George Washington to become the first Secretary of State to a new nation. During the presidential election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson was elected as the third president of the United States. During his presidency, he effectively doubled the size of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase, adding more than 820,000 square miles to the country.
After his two terms as president, Jefferson retreated to his home at Monticello, in Charlottesville, and spent time pursuing his personal passions of architecture, music, reading and gardening. He helped to found the University of Virginia, which began classes in 1825. Unlike other colleges at the time, Jefferson ensured that the school had no religious affiliation or religious requirements for its students.
Jefferson died at Monticello on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He was 83 years old.
After construction on Monticello was completed, his efforts became focused on building a retreat house, which he named Poplar Forest. The house, completed in 1816, was designed by Jefferson, who was a self taught architect. The structure was heavily influenced by Classical and French architecture, and may have been the first octagonal house built in America.
Jefferson visited Poplar Forest often, about three or four times a year, and stayed between two weeks to a month at a time. During his visits, he focused heavily on reading and writing. Jefferson could read in six languages other than English, and curated one of America’s largest libraries, keeping over 1,000 books at Poplar Forest alone.
Celebrate in Style
April 13 marks Jefferson’s 276th birthday, and Poplar Forest will be partying like it’s 1776! Festivities will include a birthday toast, cake cutting and colonial era dancing. Period attire is encouraged, but not required. Attendees will be treated to a guest appearance by the guest of honor, portrayed by actor Bill Barker. Dance the night away to the sounds of the Sons of Liberty, a triple fiddle ensemble who will play popular 18th-century dance tunes.