“The Finest Residence in Orange County”
Requiring some 8 years to construct (beginning in 1814, a year of war with Britain) and assessed at the death of its creator, James Barbour, as the most valuable residence in a county including James Madison’s Montpelier and Philip Barbour’s Frascati, this second-generation estate house at Barboursville plantation was designed by Thomas Jefferson, one of only 3 residences he designed for his friends. The Barbour family continued to occupy this residence until it was destroyed by accidental fire at Christmas, 1884, and returned to the elegant Georgian villa next door for several generations, now The 1804 Inn.
Jefferson’s design embodied a number of his renowned signatures -- the integration of the structure into an elevated knoll, the dome (not erected), and an octagonal room at the focal point of the wings of the house. Here, the octagon forms a core for the three stories of the house; from the main level it rises as one room, 2 stories high. The grandeur of this room, projecting from the south facade, lends such power and elegance to this monumental house that it was irresistible to adopt its design in the nomenclature of Barboursville Vineyards’ ultimate red wine.
Approximately 8 miles south of James Madison’s Montpelier and 20 miles north of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in the same Southwest Mountain chain, parallelling the Blue Ridge, Barboursville was settled as a substantial plantation by Thomas Barbour, in the mid-1700s, occupying somewhat more than 5 times the estate’s present size of 900-plus acres.
The career of Barbour’s fourth son, James, cemented the rapport between these three leading families of the Virginia Piedmont -- as gentry and political allies in the nascent Republican Party, which Jefferson and Madison would lead into the White House, and James Barbour into the Virginia Governor’s Mansion, the U.S. Senate, and important Cabinet and diplomatic positions thereafter.
It was as President of the Albemarle Agricultural Society, as each man was in his time, that their character as farmers achieved even greater influence. But it was in their character as friends and neighbors, that the lives of these men are so palpable at Barboursville Vineyards, the remaining one of these 3 estates to sustain their leadership in agriculture, in a viticultural dimension which Jefferson foresaw and pursued with passion.