Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest
P.O. Box 419
Forest VA 24551
Mission Statement The nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest was founded in 1983 to rescue and restore Jefferson's plantation and octagonal retreat for the educational and cultural benefit of the public. Through tours, programs, and educational outreach efforts, the Corporation tells the story of the private side of Thomas Jefferson, inspiring visitors to live lives of curiosity and creativity, as Jefferson did.
CEO/Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey L. Nichols
Board Chair Mr. W. Tucker Lemon
Board Chair Company Affiliation Martin, Hopkins & Lemon
Contact Information
Address P.O. Box 419
Forest, VA 24551
Telephone 434 525-1806
Fax 434 525-7252
History and Background
Year of Incorporation 1983
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expense Bar Graph - All Years
Expense Breakdown Bar Chart - All Years
Projected Revenue $3,388,092.00
Projected Expenses $3,566,289.00
Mission The nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest was founded in 1983 to rescue and restore Jefferson's plantation and octagonal retreat for the educational and cultural benefit of the public. Through tours, programs, and educational outreach efforts, the Corporation tells the story of the private side of Thomas Jefferson, inspiring visitors to live lives of curiosity and creativity, as Jefferson did.
Impact For the past two years, Poplar Forest’s team of professional archaeologists has been searching for evidence of Thomas Jefferson’s original landscape design in the area immediately surrounding the octagonal retreat. In December 2011, after months of investigation and research, the team replanted the double row of paper mulberry trees which stretches from the west side of the octagonal house to the flanking mound, marking completion of the first of three projects within Phase I Landscape Restoration at the retreat (a three-year initiative). We also offered several new opportunities for visitors to engage in unique cultural and educational experiences during 2011 such as: the Jefferson's Passions series, a new lecture series through which adults can explore some of the diverse subjects that interested Jefferson, including music, literature, etc. and family-focused events such as Kite Day and Grandparents Day. In addition, we added a Tour Orientation Building which provides a climate-controlled space in which to introduce visitors to Jefferson’s retreat. Poplar Forest began offering annual memberships for the first time in 2011 – nearly 450 were purchased during the first year. Our goals for 2012- 2013 are to: 1) continue archaeological excavation of Jefferson’s landscape to accurately restore this integral part of the ideal retreat environment that he designed; 2) continue to restore and preserve Jefferson’s villa retreat for current and future generations; 3) offer a variety of unique cultural and educational experiences for all ages; 4) continue to secure unprotected land at the heart of the retreat; 5) increase visitation which generates revenue to support all aspects of our programming; and, 6) increase public and private investment in Poplar Forest to ensure the future of this National Historic Landmark and world-class cultural and educational resource.
Private funding sources account for over 60% of Poplar Forest’s annual support. Additional support is derived from program and admission fees, field school tuition and rental income. Poplar Forest does not receive state support. The Corporation depends on annual gifts from individual donors to preserve Poplar Forest for current and future generations and ensure that the retreat remains open to host tours and educational/cultural offerings. Poplar Forest’s top five needs are:
1. Increase general operating support which is used to meet the most critical needs: architectural restoration, archaeological investigation and restoration of the historic landscape, cultural/educational programming and securing historic lands;
2. Continue to raise awareness about Poplar Forest and increase ranks of members and supporters;
3. Increase revenue-producing programs and events that attract and engage the public;
4. Raise funds for infrastructure improvements to support projected visitation growth (new entrance road and construction of a state-of-the-art, year-round facility for educational programs and public events);

5. Increase volunteer support through recruitment of tour docents, shop assistants and volunteers to assist with our Hands-on History program for schoolchildren.

Thomas Jefferson inherited Poplar Forest in 1773 and created a villa retreat on the farm for his retirement. Poplar Forest was a private place where he found the solitude to read, write and pursue his passion for architecture and gardening. It was also a plantation where as many as 94 enslaved people lived and labored, providing income.

The private, nonprofit corporation that owns the property is headed by a 19-member Board of Directors and was formed to lead the rescue of Jefferson’s endangered plantation retreat from intensive development. The rescue began in early 1984 when the group took title to two of the parcels of land at the heart of the retreat. In 1986, Poplar Forest opened for tours on a regular basis and hired its first director; followed by professional archaeology and restoration staff in 1989. Increasing support enabled the Corporation to purchase 500 acres of the original plantation and embark on a painstaking process to conserve, research, and authentically restore Jefferson’s design for his retreat and the heart of his plantation. Archaeologists have completed a broad survey of the majority of the property, excavated an attached wing of the main house, identified the sites of two Jefferson-era slave quarters and an antebellum quarter, and located some of the features associated with Jefferson’s designed landscape.

Exterior restoration of the octagonal house began in 1993 and was completed in 1998, earning an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Interior structural restoration followed the next year; interior plastering has been completed and work on the finishes (trim and molding) is underway. The completed restoration/reconstruction of the “wing of offices” in 2009 marked the completion of the entire exterior restoration of the architectural portion of Jefferson’s retreat design.

Education has been an important component of Poplar Forest’s mission with docent-led tours, special programming, internships and annual intensive classes in archaeology and restoration for undergraduates, graduate students and teachers. Since 2000, educational programming has intensified for school children with the introduction of an annual student field camp, an interactive hands-on history center offering a “learning by doing” approach to history education, and a distance learning program entitled “Shaping the World: Conversations on Democracy” which is streamed to schools throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Areas of Service
Areas Served

Poplar Forest is located in Bedford County, Virginia (in Central Virginia’s Region 2000), approximately four hours by car from Washington, D.C., and two hours from Richmond, Virginia. Daily Amtrak service from Washington, D.C. to Lynchburg also increases access to Poplar Forest from the Northern Virginia area and the entire Amtrak corridor north of these points (Philadelphia, New York and Boston). Visitors from all 50 states and over 80 foreign countries have explored Poplar Forest.

Board Chair
Board Chair Mr. W. Tucker Lemon
Company Affiliation Martin, Hopkins & Lemon
Term June 2017 to June 2019
Board CoChair
Board CoChair Mr. J. Frederick Armstrong
Company Affiliation Wiley|Wilson
Term June 2017 to June 2019
Board of Directors
Board Members
Mr. J. Frederick Armstrong Wiley|Wilson
Mrs. C. Lynch Christian IIICommunity Volunteer
Mr. Dennis A. Dutterer Retired Financial Executive
Mrs. Sally B. Gladden Community Volunteer
Mr. J. Dale Harvey Partner, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, Poplar Forest Capital
Mr. W. Tucker Lemon Martin, Hopkins and Lemon
Mr. Calder Loth Architectural Historian
Ms. Catherine W. Lynn Art Historian
Mr. R. William Moore Jr.Retired
Dr. Kathryn M. Pumphrey Centra Health
Mrs. Taylor Reveley Community Volunteer
Mr. William W. Semones Retired
Mr. Marvin C. Smith Retired
Dr. Philip C. Stone Stone Law Group
Mrs. Wendy L. Tackett President, iEval Consulting
Mr. Francis B. Teague Selwyn Property Group
Mrs. W. Kent Van Allen Jr.Community Volunteer
Mr. Massie G. Ware Jr.The Trust Company of Virginia
Mr. Stephen H. Watts IICounsel, McGuireWoods LLP
Mrs. Christian S. Wayt Community Volunteer
Mr. Kenneth S. White Esq.Retired, Edmuds & Williams
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 21
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 13
Female 8
Written Conflict of Interest Policy? Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100
Number of Full Board Meetings Annually 4
Other Boards
The tables below contain information about other groups that advise this nonprofit on operations and projects.
Advisory Board Members
Mr. Bill Alexander Biltmore Company
Mr. William L. Beiswanger Robert H. Smith Director of Restoration, Monticello
Mr. Robert Burley The Burley Partnership
Mr. Edward A. Chappell Director of Architectural Research, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Ms. Julie Ernstein Northwestern State University
Mr. Ian Firth University of Georgia
Mr. Peter Hatch Thomas Jefferson's Monticello
Ms. Barbara Heath University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Mr. Hugh C. Miller Goucher College
Mr. Nicholas A. Pappas Retired, Chief Historical Architect, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Mr. Will Rieley Reiley & Associates
Executive Director
Executive Director Mr. Jeffrey L. Nichols
Volunteers 90
Organization has a Strategic Plan?
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistleblower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy No
Description Poplar Forest is open daily from March 15-December 15. Guided tours (approx. 40 min.) of the house are offered from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. In addition, visitors may explore the landscape using handheld GPS units and brochures that describe the grounds and plantation community. Guests may also explore exhibits in the lower level of the house, witness ongoing restoration and archaeological excavation and view artifacts from the plantation community who lived and worked at Poplar Forest. Poplar Forest allows visitors to discover Thomas Jefferson on a personal scale and understand his vision for his ideal retreat environment.

In Shaping the World: Conversations on Democracy, a class of students is chosen from a regional school to talk with Thomas Jefferson (portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg’s outstanding living history interpreter, Bill Barker) and one of his contemporaries. Past programs have featured guests such as John Adams, George Washington, and Patrick Henry. The program reaches limitless classrooms of students and teachers statewide. Discussion and further exploration is supported through lesson plans (which address several of the Virginia Standards of Learning Objectives) and activities located at  The 2010 edition of the program (featuring Jefferson in conversation with Patrick Henry) won a “Gold” award in the education category of the 3rdAnnual Empixx Awards (administered by the American Pixel Academy).


With over 35 hands-on activities, this program brings history “alive” for children, allowing them to experience what living in Jefferson’s time was like. Children hand-mold bricks, write with a quill pen, make a bucket, lie on a slave’s bed and sift through soil to find artifacts. The half-day program (which includes a tour of the retreat and archaeological site) is geared toward students in kindergarten through middle school and serves schools throughout Virginia and beyond. The State Education Department grants recertification credit to area teachers who volunteer with us and work with the visiting school children.


We offer three field schools for adults: an intensive two-week-long program focused on architectural restoration (teaching participants about the process of planning and implementing a museum-quality project); a five-week field school on historical archaeology (instruction and in-depth exposure to field and laboratory techniques offered with a graduate credit option); and, a weekend restoration workshop (providing hands-on techniques for restoring your own home). We also offer a one-week Summer Field Camp for rising 4th and 5th graders which teaches students about archaeological and restoration practices.


Launched in 2011, this evening allows adults to explore some of the diverse subjects that interested Jefferson. The lectures are held on the roof of the wing of offices – a space which Jefferson used for reading, studying and thinking. Subjects addressed in 2011 included: music – featuring a violinist, singer and Celtic harpist; hops – the practice of brewing beer during Jefferson’s time; and, the experience of launching the nation’s new democratic government – featuring New York author Richard Goodman who spoke on the period when Jefferson, Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Adams began the task of governing the new nation.

Description Family-centered activities offered at Poplar Forest include Grandparents Day; bird watching, gardening activities with Master Gardeners, and a stargazing night, which engage visitors in exploration of the natural environment at Poplar Forest (while also learning about Jefferson's interest in the sciences). In addition to focused talks and tours about the architectural restoration and archaeological excavations, we are now offering Family Archaeology Days in the spring and fall allowing parents to experience hands-on archaeology and restoration opportunities with their children. 
Fiscal Year
Projected Revenue $3,388,092.00
Projected Expenses $3,566,289.00
Endowment Value $1,486,791.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage (if selected) 4.5
Form 990s
IRS Letter of Exemption
Detailed Financials
Revenue SourcesHelpThe financial analysis involves a comparison of the IRS Form 990 and the audit report (when available) and revenue sources may not sum to total based on reconciliation differences. Revenue from foundations and corporations may include individual contributions when not itemized separately.
Fiscal Year201520142013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
Government Contributions$140,952$50,172$63,547
Individual Contributions$1,682,415$2,203,118$692,139
Investment Income, Net of Losses$138,212$55,536$365,477
Membership Dues------
Special Events$11,920----
Revenue In-Kind$517,419$778,148$209,434
Expense Allocation
Fiscal Year201520142013
Program Expense$1,690,200$1,616,021$1,649,831
Administration Expense$368,486$414,896$353,478
Fundraising Expense$349,185$356,447$278,182
Payments to Affiliates------
Total Revenue/Total Expenses1.231.670.80
Program Expense/Total Expenses70%68%72%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue19%14%37%
Assets and Liabilities
Fiscal Year201520142013
Total Assets$17,008,446$16,599,366$14,798,812
Current Assets$2,053,462$1,843,309$656,462
Long-Term Liabilities$1,464,199$1,515,322$1,564,125
Current Liabilities$390,253$486,046$237,254
Total Net Assets$15,153,994$14,597,997$12,997,433
Short Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities5.263.792.77
Long Term Solvency
Fiscal Year201520142013
Long-Term Liabilities/Total Assets9%9%11%
Capital Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? Yes
Campaign Purpose Fundraising completed through this Campaign will support four key areas: 1) capital projects - a) constructing a new gateway (the Poplar Forest Parkway) that provides visible and direct access into Poplar Forest and, b) advancing the restoration of the interior of the octagonal retreat; 2) developing new exhibits, tours, special events and programming that enhance the visitor experience by telling not only the Jefferson story, but the stories of the enslaved population; 3) increasing awareness of Poplar Forest by investing additional resources in branding and marketing; and, 4) building financial capacity to ensure smooth day-to-day operations and solidify the longevity of Poplar Forest.
Goal $6,200,000.00
Dates Nov 2013 to June 2017
Amount Raised To Date $5,850,333.00
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes
State Charitable Solicitaions Permit
Solicitations Permit
Solicitations Permit 5/2016View
Foundation Comments
  • IRS Form 990s represent the financial position of the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest.
  • Audited financial statements represent the consolidated financial position of the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest and its subsidiary The Poplar Forest Swim & Tennis Club, Inc.
  • IRS 990s and audited financial statements prepared by Brown, Edwards & Company, LLP.