Thomas Jefferson: From Boyhood to Manhood

Tuckahoe Plantation

Thomas Jefferson’s name conjures up stories of a Renaissance Man: president, Founding Father, Francophile, architect, gardener, and foodie (to name a few). Such knowledge, passion, and intrigue began at a very early age. This exhibit will draw connections between his adult life and childhood at Tuckahoe Plantation, and how the estate influenced the future Renaissance Man

Jefferson grew up at Tuckahoe Plantation, an 18th-century tobacco plantation in Richmond, Virginia. The mansion house was built between 1733 and 1740 by William Randolph, featuring an “H” frame construction and exquisite wood paneling and carvings.

By 1745, both William and his wife died, leaving three young orphans. The Jefferson family then moved to Tuckahoe to care for their friends' children and the property.

Two-year-old Thomas Jefferson was carried to Tuckahoe on a pillow by a mounted slave. From ages two to nine, Thomas lived at Tuckahoe until 1752, when his cousin Thomas Mann Randolph became of age.

Peter Jefferson constructed a one-room schoolhouse at Tuckahoe for the education of the Randolph and Jefferson children. The domed ceiling in the Schoolhouse is likely the first dome Thomas Jefferson encountered.

Domed ceilings allowed hot air to rise, keeping the living space cooler. Beyond its practicality, domes were important components of classical architecture, which Jefferson highly favored as an architect.

The buildings at Tuckahoe are constructed of poplar wood, a brick foundation, and dark walnut and pine paneling. Such architecture did not impress Jefferson after his attraction to classic columns and domes.

He preferred buildings of brick and stone to wood, believing the earlier to be more durable and progressive. Despite any emotional connections to Tuckahoe, Jefferson found the country estate inferior architecturally.

Thomas Jefferson was heavily influenced by the Venetian architect, Andrea Palladio. Jefferson first encountered Palladian architecture at Tuckahoe, with the designs and windows of the South Door...

...the hand-carved newel post in the North Hall...

...and the Corinthian capitals in the Burnt Room.

Jefferson received his earliest education in the one-room schoolhouse on the property. Reflecting back on his education, Jefferson called the place “the English School.”

No details exist of the curriculum, but likely the boys and girls were instructed together on arithmetic, composition, reading, and religion. A plaque on the property commemorates Tuckahoe on influencing Jefferson's intelligence.

Jefferson cultivated a love of gardening later in life. In 1811, Jefferson wrote that “no occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.”

Growing up on plantations likely sparked his lifelong passion for plants. As a boy, Jefferson walked through Tuckahoe's flower, vegetable, and herb gardens, enjoying the fresh air, wildlife, and botanicals.

Tuckahoe's gardener incorporates heritage seeds that have been passed down through generations. She also plants “Jefferson Flowers,” or blooms that Jefferson himself planted at Monticello, such as coxcomb, Black Eyed Susans, and cleome.

Tuckahoe Plantation influenced one of America's greatest figures, as experiences of a boy translated into the interests of a man. One can only imagine the stories of young Thomas that the grounds and rooms can share.

Credits: Story

Text and captions by Rita Sausmikat.
Photographs and images individually cited.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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