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Finding the Influence of Thomas Jefferson in an Antebellum Ruin in Barboursville, Virginia

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You are looking at the ruins of James Barbour’s mansion, which was completed in 1822 and destroyed by fire on Christmas Day in 1884. James Barbour enjoyed an impressive career, serving as a member in the Virginia House of Delegates, the 18th Governor of Virginia, a U.S. Senator, the U.S. Secretary of War, and the U.S. Minister to England, but he was particularly proud of his work drafting the bill establishing the Literary Fund of Virginia (see page 23), which provided some funding for public education in Virginia.

Ruins of the Barboursville House consist of red brick walls, a chimney, and four columns with visible burn marks.
The Barboursville ruins in Barboursville, VA. Photograph by Robert Brammer.

You may notice some similarities between the design of this home, called Barboursville, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. In particular, you may notice a drawing room in the shape of an octagon. Jefferson’s Monticello features a similar parlor, and this is not a coincidence, since this home was designed for James Barbour by Thomas Jefferson. The ruins of Barboursville occupy land owned by a winery in Barboursville, Virginia, and can be visited whenever the winery is open.

View looking into the ruins of the octagonal parlor of the Barboursville House
The Barboursville ruins in Barboursville, VA. Photograph by Robert Brammer.
Crumbling walls of the Barboursville Ruins
The interior of the Barboursville ruins in Barboursville, VA. Photograph by Robert Brammer.

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