Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Barboursville: Zachary Taylor & Gov. Barbour

Barboursville is the birthplace of renowned American military commander and U.S. President Zachary Taylor (1849-1850), who was born in 1783 in a log cabin on the Montebello estate just outside the village (in the direction of Gordonsville). It is also famous for the location of Barboursville Plantation, the home of James Barbour, 19th Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, after whom the community is named. The brick ruins of his home, designed by Thomas Jefferson, are on land now owned by Barboursville Vineyards.

Governor Barbour’s Plantation House
Approximately 8 miles southwest of Montpelier and 20 miles northeast of Monticello, Barboursville Plantation was settled as a substantial estate by Thomas Barbour in the mid-1700s, occupying somewhat more than 5 times the present 900+ acres. The career of Barbour’s fourth son, James, cemented the rapport between three leading families of the Virginia Piedmont – as gentry and political allies in the nascent Republican Party, which Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would lead into the White House, and James Barbour into the Virginia Governor’s Mansion (1812-14), the U.S. Senate (1814-25), and important Cabinet and diplomatic positions thereafter (Barbour was Secretary of War 1825-28 and Envoy to Great Britain 1828-29).

Requiring some 8 years to construct (beginning in 1814) the estate house at Barboursville Plantation was one of only 3 residences Thomas Jefferson designed for friends. The Barbour family continued to occupy this residence until it was destroyed by accidental fire on Christmas Day, 1884. They then returned to their older family dwelling, a Georgian villa next door (now the site of the 1804 Inn, as shown in the photo below).

The ruins of the Neo-Palladian style mansion were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969. Thomas Jefferson's role as architect and the fineness of the design, still visible as a ruin, were the prime factors in the property's listing. On summer evenings, theatrical and musical productions are often presented at the ruin.

The ruins may be visited in conjunction with a visit to the Barboursville Vineyards (tasting room open Monday-Saturday: 10am-5pm). The octagonal room of the Barbour mansion, the focus of the main floor, gives its name to the award-winning Octagon wine, one of three wines produced by Barboursville Vineyards that were served to Queen Elizabeth during her 2007 visit to Jamestown. The wine label bears the floor plan of Gov. Barbour's home.

Directions to Barboursville: From Orange, take Route 20 directly past James Madison's Montpelier Plantation, then travel 8 more miles to Route 33. Turn left (east) on Route 33 for 1/4 mile, right (south) on Route 20, and you are in Barboursville. From Route 20 South, take the first left (Rt 678), follow the signs to the driveway of Barboursville Vineyards, less than 1 mile.

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