Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

Thomas Jefferson Buildings

Date of Submission: 30/01/2008
Criteria: (i)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
U.S. Department of the Interionr
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 5244

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Poplar Forest, Bedford County  79°16'1.513"W   37°20'48.837"N 

Virginia State Capitol, Richmond  77°26'3.082"W   37°32'18.477"N

These two buildings, both notable architectural works by Thomas Jefferson, are recommended together as a joint extension to the World Heritage listing that includes Monticello and the University of Virginia.

The Virginia State Capitol was constructed in 1785-98 on the Capitol Square Site in Richmond selected by Jefferson in 1780 when he was Governor of Virginia during the American Revolution.  The Roman temple form of the original Jeffersonian central portion of the building is an enlarged version of the Maison Carrée at Nimes, France, which Jefferson visited during his service as American Minister to France.  The design was also directly influenced by his association with two French master designers, Charles-Louis Clerisseau and Jean-Pierre Fouquet.   The interior plan was modeled on the earlier Virginia colonial capitol in Williamsburg. Flanking wings set back from the original building were constructed in 1904-06.  The State Capitol continues to serve its historic use.

Poplar Forest is a rural retreat designed by Jefferson, the finishing details of which were largely executed for him by his slave John Hemings beginning before Jefferson retired from the U.S.  presidency in 1809.  At the historic core of the property and set just south of the remains of a grove of poplars that gave the place its name is a 2-story brick house built in a perfect octagon around a central cube.  Each side of the octagon is 7 meters (22 feet); the cube at the center measures about 6 meters (20 feet) on each side.  The service wing to the east was added in 1814.  Also surviving from Jefferson's era are designed landscape features, including mounds flanking the house ("pavilions") and a sunken lawn.  The landscaping was inspired by English gardens.    Modern buildings on the property are used for administrative and visitor facilities and are slated for eventual removal as the managing private non-profit corporation that owns and manages the property acquires more land. 

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

These properties, much like the two already listed, reflect Jefferson's eclectic Classicism.  Poplar Forest, one of America's first octagonal houses, draws on Roman Classical details derived from Palladio and aspects of French late 18th century architecture, such as floor-to-ceiling windows and the use of skylights.  The Virginia State Capitol, as the first adaptation of the Roman temple form to a public building, has been enduringly influential in the use of Classical models for such structures.

Together with Monticello and the University of Virginia, these two buildings present the most notable types of architecture with which Jefferson was concerned: domestic, educational, and governmental.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Except for the removal of two rooms in the service wing in the 1840s and alteration of the other two (now being restored), the principal change at Poplar Forest is the restoration of the central room to its more than 6 meter (20 foot) height; it had previously been lowered to less than 4 meters (12 feet).  The Getty Conservation Institute has assisted heavily in the conservation of original fabric.  The garden retains many original features and is exceptionally well documented.

At the Virginia State Capitol, flanking wings were constructed in 1904-06 to provide new legislative chambers.  (The old chambers have since been restored.)  The wings are smaller, lower, and set back to respect the importance of the central structure.

Comparison with other similar properties

In terms of representing Jefferson's contributions to world architecture, the addition of these two properties would complete the collection.  To his primary residence and the university he designed would be added his other most important domestic design and the classically inspired seat of government of the State he served in numerous capacities.