Thomas Jefferson spent seven years of his childhood at the James River plantation of Tuckahoe. His father Peter came here with his family to be the guardian to the Randolph children who had lost both of their parents.
The house is the only frame house on the James River north of Richmond that was not destroyed during the Civil War. Its survival can be credited to the lady of the house who happened to have danced with the Colonel who was charged with burning her home. Instead of burning the house, he stayed to tea and so Tuckahoe was saved.
The front of the house dates from 1733. It was a four room house, two over two. The additional part of the house was constructed in 1740 after the influx of cash from William Randolph’s marriage to Maria Judith Page. Original slave cabins have survived as well as the overseer’s cottage. On the opposite side of the house is a former gardener’s cottage which was used as a school house for the Randolph and Jefferson children. The doomed roof may have inspired the young Jefferson.
Formal gardens are located close to the house. They are more formal today than they would have been in the 18th century. A Randolph family cemetery is also located on the grounds. At one time, there was quite an amazing boxwood maze to the east of the house but they have been removed and this lawn is now used as the ceremony space at many wedding that take place at Tuckahoe.
The inside of the house has very fine wood carving done by an English indentured servant. It has survived in amazing condition for almost 300 years. Photography is not allowed inside the house so you will have to trust that the black walnut is in outstanding condition and the staircase, which was wedding gift, is still pristine.
Once you leave the original section of the house, the wood paneling goes from black walnut to oak. You get to visit two bedrooms in the original section of the house. No one knows where young Thomas Jefferson actually slept but he was only a child so since the blue bedroom was not the master bedroom, it might just be that room or it may have been in part of the house that is not open to tours.
On the first floor in the original section are the Burnt Parlor and the White Parlor. The names of the rooms are descriptive and honestly, a visit here will fill in the blanks and is highly recommended.
The newer part of the house includes the Great Hall which is a bright and airy space with a door to the side of the house. There are several others rooms that are part of the guided tour of the house.
Plantation Street is the location of the slave cabins which are mostly private residences today but the rest room and a small museum are in one. An herb garden is located outside the kitchens.
From the rear of the house, there are beautiful views all the way down the steep bluff to the James River. At one time, Tuckahoe was a railroad stop and the remnants of the tracks are still clearly visible. The views are so outstanding that on the day of our visit, artists and their easels were lining the ridge overlooking the river.
The house has a fascinating history that continues long beyond the time of the Randolphs and Jeffersons. However, ask about the scandal from the Randolph days, it has it all, intrigue, adultery and murder. Additionally, there is connection between Tuckahoe and Nemours the great estate of Alfred I DuPont in the Brandywine Valley.
There is also thought to be a resident ghost, Mary Randolph. This is another story you will hear during your fascinating tour of the house and grounds.
Tuckahoe is open to the public only for pre-arranged private tours. There is a small charge for the tour. Our tour lasted about 90 minutes and was fascinating. The history of the home as it relates to Thomas Jefferson is what brought us here but there is so much more to this amazing estate than just this one era in its lengthy history.