Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson’s Notes and Drawings for Barboursville, [before 29 March 1817]

Notes and Drawings for Barboursville

[before 29 Mar. 1817]

f. running measure
2 walls 1½ brick thick 41.f long = 82
6. do 19. = 114
1 do 22 = 22
2. do 30 = 60
2. do 2. bricks thick 42½ = 85  f. rung measure.
a column of wall 1.f. running measure  9 f. pitch below & 2. bricks thick will take 24. bricks ×  f
 9 =
18 f. pitch above & 1½ brick thick 18. bricks × 18 = 324 
540. bricks
a column of wall 1.f. running measure  9 f. pitch below1 & 2½ brick thick 30. bricks ×  9 = 270 
18.f pitch above & 2. bricks thick 24. bricks × 18 = 432 
278. f. running measure at 540. bricks to every foot will be = 150,120
85. f at 702 59,670
4. fireplaces & 2. shafts on the top 2,784
2. porticos, underpinning 4. bricks thick, 5½ f high, 62.f rung measure 16,368
228,842 bricks in the whole.

the 2. walls dividing the middle rooms from the side rooms are made 2. bricks, or 18 I. thick that all the flues of the 8 fire places may run up in their thickness, each flue being2 9.I. wide one way, and 16.I. or 18 I. the other way, being 144 or 162. square inches and experience has abundantly proved that 144. square I. or 1. square foot is sufficient to vent the smoke.

these flues must be brought together at the top of the wall over the points a.b. where the cross walls of the bed rooms join, and3 being 4. in number each, they will form a square shaft 3.f. square, containing 4. flues of 12.I. square separated by a lath of 4.I.

the fire places below are of brick, projecting into the room, but stopping at the height of 5 or 5½ f. by which time the flue may be gathered back into the thickness of the wall. this saves abundance of bricks and prevents breaking the cornice into angles.

the public rooms to wit the 2. middle rooms and the Dining room are 18 f pitch. in the clear.

the private rooms are the lower one [ ]½ f. pitch in the clear, }
 8½ joists & floors
 1  1.f
 7½ upper room 7[ ] f pitch in the clear4
 1  joists
18.f 18.f

the house being 41.f. wide and the cornice projecting 18.I. on each side makes the joists 44.f. long from point to point.

the height of the roof must be 29 of it’s span, consequently 8. f 8 I high.

the windows of the upper rooms admit only of a cornice running round the body of the house, but for the porticoes there must be an architrave & frize also, making a compleat entablature.

the external order may be Tuscan. and the floor of the porticos 6.I. lower than that of the house

in that case the order entire will be 19 f–6 I
f  I   
the cornice 1– 6    the diameter of the column below is 2 f
frize 1–    it’s diminished diameter above is 18.I.
architrave 1  I would recommend the octagon room to have an Ionic modillion cornice and the Dining room an Ionic dentil cornice; these being easily made and yielding to none in beauty
entablature 3– 6
the capital 1.  0
fust 14. 
base 1. 
column entire 16. 

the architraves of the doors and windows must be 16 of their clear opening

Rumford fireplaces adapted to wood, should be 18.I. deep 2.f wide in the back and 4.f. in front, or 1 f. 9 I. in back & 3 f 6.I. in front. 3. f to 3. f 3 I high

the upper rooms should have stoves, to save stacks5

the windows of the two middle rooms should go down to the floor.

the 3. center doors are 5.f. wide &6 as high as the windows, and the Southern one should be a sash door. the other doors should be 7.f. high and 3½ or 3. feet wide.

3 f. 3.I. by 6 f. 6 I. is a good width and height for windows below, & suits glass of 12. by 18 I. the windows above, for glass of the same size must be 3 f 3.I. by 4.f. 9.I. opening on a swivel joint7 being restrained in their height by the outer cornice & the low pitch of the rooms.

the stairs leading from the lower to the upper rooms can occupy but 10 f by 3½ on the floor & therefore will have 14 treads of 8½ I. and 15 rises of 7¾ I. under each are steps down to the cellars, and from the upper floor of one should be steps up into the loft and a trap door in the roof to get out on that.

the Dome is to be on posts from the top of the wall to the plate the top of which is 18.I. above the ridge pole. the radius of the dome is 17 f 8. I it’s arc is of 120.° it’s plinths are 10.I. high each. the shingling of the roof of the house should go a foot or more under the sides of the dome, to prevent leaking at the junctures. this renders a support of framed work for the dome better than to raise the brick walls. the ribs of the roof are made of 4 thicknesses of inch plank 12.I. wide, breaking joists the dome may be omitted altogether if desired. the cornice of the dome is a mere surbase moulding of 6.I


MS (MHi); written entirely in TJ’s hand on 13516-by-20¾-inch sheet of brown, single-sided, engraved, coordinate paper folded in half to form four pages, with notes on p. 1 and drawings on pp. 2–3; undated; two numbers reworked and illegible.

These notes were evidently composed prior to 29 Mar. 1817, when James Barbour thanked TJ for his plan for this building. TJ also prepared a drawing of the rear elevation (PrC in MHi, entirely in TJ’s hand, undated; reproduced in Kimball, Jefferson, Architect description begins Fiske Kimball, Thomas Jefferson, Architect, 1916 description ends , fig. 205).

A fust is the shaft of a column (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

Barbour followed TJ’s design for his Barboursville estate fairly closely, although he did take advantage of the latter’s concession that the dome may be omitted altogether if desired (Kimball, Jefferson, Architect description begins Fiske Kimball, Thomas Jefferson, Architect, 1916 description ends , 185–6, fig. 206). A photograph of the structure as it stood prior to a devastating 1884 fire is reproduced elsewhere in this volume, as is a likeness of Barbour.

1Reworked from “above.”

2TJ here canceled “10.”

3Preceding eight words interlined.

4To the right of this brace TJ canceled “the joists of all the rooms lay on the top of the wall, and are sloped at their ends thus so as to make a part of the roof, & not of the body of the house
the top of the cornice outside being even with the bottom of the joist is nailed to brackets suspended from the joists.”

5Sentence interlined.

6TJ here canceled “10.f. high in the clear.”

7Preceding five words interlined.

Index Entries

  • architecture; TJ advises J. Barbour on search
  • Barbour, James; and TJ’s designs for Barboursville search
  • Barboursville (J. Barbour’s Orange Co. plantation) search
  • building materials; bricks search
  • building materials; plank search
  • building materials; shingles search
  • building materials; window glass search
  • fireplaces; at Barboursville search
  • fireplaces; Rumford search
  • glass, window; for Barboursville search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes and Drawings for Barboursville search
  • Rumford, Benjamin Thompson, Count; fireplace designed by search
  • stoves; at Barboursville search