Thomas Jefferson may be most famous for writing the Declaration of Independence, but he had many other interests and pursuits outside of fighting for our nation’s freedom. One of the most notable homes he designed was for his friend James Barbour, a wealthy attorney and Virginia politician. Once one of the most elegant and stately homes in Barboursville, the mansion became the Barboursville ruins when it was destroyed by a fire on Christmas Day in 1884.
A lifelong student of architecture, the former president once said,
“Architecture is my delight, and putting up and pulling down, one of my favorite amusements.”Thomas Jefferson
The Barboursville Ruins are Managed by one of Virginia’s Oldest Wineries
The ruins of the majestic structure still stand, casting shadows of the home’s former glory over the neighboring Charlottesville hills.
Construction of the home took several years, with Jefferson providing some of his personal workmen from his Monticello residence.
The original drawings for the home had an uncanny resemblance to Monticello, following in the Jeffersonian ideal of classic sophistication. A large dome was to sit atop the structure as the focal point but was not included in the final construction of the home.
The exquisitely designed home featured eight rooms with elaborate porticos and an octagonal sitting room. The Flemish-bond style brick and sloping, hipped roof are characteristic of the era. Surrounded by lush, green boxwood gardens, the Barbour estate painted a lovely picture for visitors entering its lane.
Barboursville Estate Vineyard
Today, the estate exists as part of the Barboursville Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in Virginia. The only remaining features of the original home are some of its brick walls and fluted columns. And the winery owners preserved one of the other original Barbour structures that now serves as an Inn, along with an even older building known as The Cottage.
Although the Barboursville ruins are a National Historic Site, the winery is far from just an architectural attraction. The 900 acres of rich soil produce delectable grapes and award-winning varietals.
The rolling hills and Colonial architecture make the winery a popular place for weddings and special events. And the Barboursville ruins serve as the perfect backdrop to freeze a moment in time.
The mansion is open for tours during winery operating hours. And is just a short quarter-mile walk from the main grounds.
In August, visitors can take their libations to the lawn in front of the ruins to enjoy a production of Shakespeare, with the stately brick structure in the background.
Jefferson put it best when he said,
“Architecture…is then among the most important arts: and it is desirable to introduce taste into an art which shows so much.”