In Jefferson's Footsteps: A Journey of Discovery
Virginia Commonwealth University
March 4 - 9, 2007
Natural Bridge, Virginia
After spending the first months few of 2007 in Owego it
was time to begin traveling. I was able to sign up for
two Elderhostel programs held at Natural Bridge,
Virginia. After a seven hour drive from Owego, the
program began with the traditional Sunday evening
dinner and orientation meeting. Our group of
Jefferson scholars was thirty-three strong mostly from the
east coast and the mid west.
The Natural Bridge sign that greeted my arrival.
The Natural Bridge Hotel and Conference Center where
our program was headquartered. It was
interesting to note that parking was at a premium
on Sunday do to the fact that an all day bingo session was under way.
On Monday and Tuesday, we were in sessions in
which local experts lectured the group on topic such
as "Life and Times of Jefferson" and "Jefferson the Architect".
These topic were interesting but the fact we sat for
several hours was less than exciting.
On Tuesday afternoon, we had our first field trip of the program.
It was to Jefferson's summer home at Poplar Forest outside
of Lynchburg. The trip over and back, including time to
explore the house, took all afternoon.
A view of Poplar Ridge from the front drive. The house was
planned and built to Jefferson's specifications. Most of the rooms
were eight sided octagon shaped. There was a large square
room in the middle. Fifteen fire places were in the corners of the rooms.
It is possible to see the octagon shape in this side view.
Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha inherited the
Bedford County plantation known as Poplar Forest
from her Father in 1773. This house was begun in 1806
and was perhaps the first octagonal house in America.
Jefferson would visit Poplar Forest three or fourth times a year.
His last visit was in 1823 when he settled his grandson,
Francis Eppes on the propriety. The property was sold
by Eppes in 1828, two years after Jefferson's death to a neighbor.
One of the two out houses found on the property. They were
placed one on each side of the building some distance away.
To the left of the building, archeologist's discovered the foot
print of the wing of Poplar Ridge that housed the service areas,
the kitchen. smoke room and storeroom for wines and beer.
This is the reconstructed kitchen room.
The house is being very carefully and painstakingly
restored by the nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's
Poplar Forest which was formed in the 1980's to rescue
the property from destruction.
The reconstructed kitchen. The three holes in the brick counter on the
right are for a food warming arrangement.
Tuesday evening found our group being lecture to about Jefferson the Naturalist.
Wednesday dawned cool and sunny for our second field trip of the week.
The entrance building to the Natural Bridge park. It also
houses a neat gift shop and food court. We hiked
down to the gorge to see Natural Bridge that was part of an earlier
Jefferson land holding dating back to 1774 when he bought
is from King George III.
The span of the bridge rises 215 feet from the pathway
through the top of the opening. I am hiking on Cedar Creek Nature Trail.
George Washington surveyed the area including the bridge for Lord Fairfax.
Along the way there was a stop at Saltpeter Cave. The cave was mined
for use in making gun powder for the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
At the end of the Cedar Creek Nature Trail was Lace Falls.
After my hike on the trail in the Gorge, I visited the
Natural Bridge Gift Shop. I could not pass up
the chance to be photographed in front of their stuffed bear.
After our morning of hiking to the bridge we had a
free afternoon to explore the local area. I visited Lexington, Virginia.
It is a quaint town that is the locale for
Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University.
Wednesday evening we were treated to a musical performance
of Parlor Music by Professor Gibson and his wife.
They were excellent, the program of period music was most enjoyable.
Thursday morning found us on a bus heading for Charlottesville to visit
Monticello and the University of Virginia.
We entered Monticello by walking up the east walk and
then through the front door pictured here. We had a very good
one hour tour of the various rooms in the house.
A photo of the rear of Monticello. It was a beautiful morning to
explore the grounds and buildings of Monticello.
The South Pavilion was the first building erected on the mountaintop.
Jefferson lived there from November 1770, while the first Monticello
was under construction. Housed in this building was the Kitchen,
smokehouse, slave quarters and the dairy.
A view of one of Monticello's many gardens. They are
waiting for warm weather when they would be planted.
After a box lunch at Monticello, we venture on to Mr. Jefferson's University.
This is the Rotunda building that was designed by Jefferson as
the architectural and academic heart of his community
of scholars, or what he termed "an Academical Village."
The Rotunda was the focal point of the Academical Village
which housed faculty, the Pavilion Gardens, student rooms
and six hotels which originally served as dining halls. The Rotunda no
longer serves as the university library. In 1853, an annex was
added to the north facade of the building. On October 27, 1895 a fire
destroyed the original Rotunda. It is said that Mr. Jefferson followed the
construction on the campus by using a telescope at Monticello.
A view of one of the Pavilion buildings making up the Academical village.
Standing by a Jefferson statue that survived the fire of 1895.
One of Jefferson's curved walls that were designed to
use less bricks than a straight wall.
The doorway to the dorm room of Edgar Allen Poe.
He was a student at the University of Virginia for one year.
Our Elderhostel program ended at noon on Friday.
It was a great week with good lecturers and field trips.