A must-see on the Thomas Jefferson tour of Virginia is his "occasional retreat," Poplar Forest. The octagonal architecture, now standing in a residential neighborhood and surrounded by only a few remaining poplars, was conceived and built by Jefferson, and he sometimes stayed here between 1806 and 1813. This Palladian hermitage exemplifies the architect's sublime sense of order that is so evident at Monticello. Erected on a slope, the house has a front that's one story
high, with a two-story rear elevation. The octagon's center is a square, skylighted dining room flanked by two smaller octagons. The restoration to its Jefferson-era state is ongoing, and likely to continue for years to come. Every July 4 there's a free celebration that includes a reading of the Declaration of Independence and living-history exhibits.