This past Friday my son and I headed west for a weekend of camping. Along the way we travelled through one of my favorite parts of the state, the western Piedmont where it nears the Blue Ridge, and stopped at the Barboursville Ruins. The house was one of only a few that Thomas Jefferson designed for a friend, in this case James Barbour, who was a U.S. Senator, Secretary of War and a Governor of Virginia. It took 11 years to build and was constructed in Jefferson's favorite neo-Palladian style. The main receiving room was an octagon from which all other rooms flared. On Christmas Day in 1884 the house burned leaving nothing but the walls and porch columns. The love of Virginians for their history seems to know no age, and even back then the ruins were preserved. Today Barboursville is a central part of the Barboursville Vineyards, home of many excellent wines.
Along with the bricks, the historic landscape around Barboursville survived the fire as well. In order for Barbour's guests to get to the front door, they first had to traverse his race track still in place (this was and remains a country of serious horse culture). The other major feature of the landscape is its boxwood plantings. As I have said in several other posts, no old Virginia house, ruined or otherwise, can be without its boxwood. Those at Barboursville are the largest I have ever seen, and I was able to walk under them without hitting my head. If the house was still habitable, the race track would be obscured from the second floor rooms by boxwood.
(My usual disclaimer is in place, in that I have not received any compensation for the mention of anything in this post, including a case of 2006 Octagon which would not be refused if it should happen to appear on my doorstep.)