“Walls,” this week’s Where’s My Backpack travel theme challenge, made me think of Barboursville Ruins, tucked away along Virginia’s Monticello Wine Trail.
This yawning brick skeleton is all that remains of the grand mansion designed by the local demigod, Thomas Jefferson, for his friend James Barbour, Governor of Virginia and, later, the US Secretary of War. The mansion burned down on Christmas Day of 1884 (candles in drying Christmas trees–who thought that was a good idea?). Lucky for them, the Barbour family had an elegant Georgian villa just next door, now part of the inviting 1804 Inn & Cottages. Off they went, while the Ruins remained, perched upon a hill overlooking the smooth waves of the Blue Ridge mountains and framed by old chestnuts, grand magnolias, and manicured boxwood.
Barboursville was a last-minute detour on our sunny autumn weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. We were here to visit the presidential homes: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–a UNESCO’s World Heritage site–James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier (all dressed up for the Constitution Day celebration), and James Monroe’s modest Ash-Highland Lawn. Barboursville is a serene 10-minute drive from Montpelier and about 30 minutes away from Monticello. The Ruins lie within the 900-acre Barboursville Vineyards, the oldest (c. 1976) of the boutique wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail.
Barboursville put this region on the viticultural map with its signature red, Octagon. The wine and its label celebrate the centerpiece of the ruined mansion–its octagonal drawing room. Tastings and an Italian restaurant, Palladio, are just down the road in a large white building, overflowing with excited crowds. For a moment, we relaxed outside: grape vines and chestnuts whispered in the breeze, clouds played with their own shadows. Slowly, dusk was approaching.
Ready for dinner (Palladio was all booked), we headed to Charlottesville, the red walls of the Ruins at our backs.
- For another, much more thorough take, see The History Tourist’s excellent post “Wine Among the Ruins“
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- At the Library of Congress: A Symphony in Gold and Marble
- A President’s Sanctuary: Lincoln’s Cottage
What a sad story, and a beautiful ruin! I’ve wondered before about the wisdom of putting candles on Christmas trees.
It does seem like a very bad idea–I guess those Victorians did not learn quickly, on either side of the Atlantic. The ruins did not feel like a sad place. The owners of the Vineyard stabilized them, so the site is very well maintained, and the area around is flourishing. It just feels like this half-materialized form from the past–an interesting presence.
It reminds me a lot of the castle ruins in Scotland. They are so hauntingly beautiful, and its amazing that some of them have been around for hundreds of years (as a ruin).
Gorgeous – love ruins and thanks for visiting!
Thank you! I love ruins as well. Looking forward to your next posts!
I would love to do some archaeology in the area. Bet Jefferson had a lot of secrets buried, maybe whole basements! ;o)
Oh, I’d imagine, MILES and MILES of basements and fields for that guy…
I live in Richmond and enjoy hiking all around Virginia but never heard of this place. It is definitely on my list of places to go now!
I am glad! It is about an hour and a half away driving from Richmond. Not sure if this is a good place for hiking, with all the vineyards and farms around, this looks like a too-developed area for hiking, but it is a lovely place to stumble upon as you drive around the area.
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Thanks for the mentioned. I’d love to go back to try the Inn and Palladio.
Me too. Let me know how they are is if you get there first. Both looked welcoming–if a little crowded.
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This post reminds me why I need to return to this part of the country and explore further – there is so much to see. I love these kinds of travel sites. ~ Kat
There is a lot to see, and I also enjoy these road-side stumbles. I hope you come back soon and enjoy the area. Thank you for stopping by.