tv Thomas Jeffersons Poplar Forest CSPAN May 20, 2018 10:00pm-10:26pm EDT
was by the latter part of the 1800's, was the political and economic center of the state of alabama. not much was heard of the fall of selma because april 2, when selma fell, was the same day general lee was forced out of petersburg and the evacuation of richmond began. the same day that federal troops left selma, april 9, 1865, was the same day general lee surrendered to grant at appomattox so selma was rendered to a footnote at the end of the war but had the loss of selma occurred six months or a year earlier, without a doubt the war would have ended sooner. cities city stuart taft -- tour staff recently traveled to selma, alabama. you can find more on c-span.org/
citiestour. american artifacts take us to historic places to learn about history. --mas jefferson travis mcdonald talks about the site's history we go to the current renovation project to show the historic trade of >> what you see behind me is jefferson's most perfect work of art. this is the villa retreat. he started billing this when he was president. -- building this when he was a president. it is not known very much because jefferson kept it a secret. it was lived in privately until
1979. since 1984, it has been a house museum, a private nonprofit project and we have been doing restoration for the last 30 years. it is a long and slow process because we try to do the most authentic process just like jefferson first did it. we are in the home stretch of restoring the main house. we have craftsmen who are making the moldings by hand and we are following jefferson's exact historical sequence, not just the same material and techniques but the same historical timeline. once jefferson started living here it took him 14 years to finish it because it was his most perfect work for his own exploration.
-- inspiration. yet he never invited anyone to come see his most perfect work which tells us it was all for himself. this is his missing link of architecture. it is a very important work we can call jeffersonian. it is a melting pot of all the ideas he collected throughout his lifetime and put together in his one personal work. this was a property that jefferson's wife's father owned. jefferson and his wife inherit this in 1773. jefferson thinks about it for a long time and then eventually when he is still in the white house, he starts constructing poplar forest.
which was fortunate because he had to send detailed letters to the workers in the worker sent letters back to the white house which makes this one of the most documented early american houses. jefferson's letters are very detailed and explicit. in 1809, jefferson leaves the white house and started using poplar forest that year. it is an unfinished shell, but that doesn't matter because it is a peaceful and quiet place. he comes here between 1809 and 1823 up to four times per year, usually bringing one servant. the other slaves here on the plantation helped when he was in
residence. it is mostly jefferson trying to be by himself. if you wanted to imagine the historic sounds of poplar forest, it is the sound of his mind when he is reading, writing, and thinking. eventually he brings two teenage granddaughters with him and finally in 1823 he gives this to his grandson who lives here for five years. the house went through two other families had was finally rescued in 1983 to be a museum. this was a working plantation, one of five that jefferson owned. it was originally 5000 acres but it his lifetime goes down to 1000. eventually jefferson tried to do wheat as a cash crop, but the
challenge here in the piedmont is you have to get your cash crop down to richmond where you can put them on a ship. jefferson like this because it was so remote. it is a challenge to get your autonomy down to richmond. typically when jefferson is not here, the house is locked up. when he comes he would stay anywhere between two weeks and two months, typically by himself. when he is in richmond as governor, and philadelphia and new york with the government he is always looking to use a retreat. he needed to be by himself to do his greatest thinking.
you could say, he is leaving public office after 40 years, retiring to monticello, why does he need a retreat? monticello had become like a hotel and everyone either who knew jefferson or didn't would drop in and want to be entertained. at monticello, jefferson is almost a prisoner. he locked himself in his private suite. he really needs poplar forest to be by himself to recharge his intellectual batteries. it is in the peace and quite of poplar forest that he does his last great project at the university of virginia. even when that is under construction he is at poplar forest sometimes. this is a complication of many things that jefferson loved, is
most fundamental being the octagon. he loves the shape of an octagon. and poplar forest becomes the first octagon house in america. within that octagon it is a geometrical puzzle. in the middle of this house is a 20 foot tube and around that are octagonal rooms. it was a modern marvel of architecture because it was used for one person who used it occasionally. it did not have to operate as a typical house. five years after he started
living here he asked for a wing of what he called service rooms. kitchen, laundry, smokehouse. these ideas of wings attached to the house he had seen in a book from the renaissance, but he makes it his own device by inventing a hidden room that gives you a flat deck on top. we are almost sure he wanted balanced wings but only the 100-foot wing on the east was built. it was the same size of the wings he had just added to the white house which also had service rooms and a flat deck he could sit on. these wings are very jeffersonian in concept. they were important for him to engage nature while his enslaved servants used the bottom.
jefferson hired his same white workers, the carpenter, the bricklayer who later went to the university of virginia. once the shell was finished, all of the finished work at poplar forest was done by john hemmings, and enslaved craftsmen from monticello who by that time is the master craftsman at monticello. john hemmings came with his nephews to do the finished woodwork in the house. john hemmings is not only literate, but he and jefferson right letters back and forth. letters back and forth. jefferson is at monticello and hemmings at poplar forest. what is interesting is, they both speak in this architectural language that not too many people would have known about.
jefferson says of his work, he has never seen better work from anyone. architecturally we are in the final stages of completing the interior of the house, making moldings by hand. right now we are replastering the ceilings in the house. we did those back in 2003 but had to redo them for a number of reasons. so today you will see a traditional process of lime and plaster being put on the ceilings, using glass from england, plaster mixed with goat hair by two english plasterers who now live in the united
states. this is a process that no one has seen for probably 100 years and even parts of it not since jefferson's time. this is a rare opportunity to see this authentic process. what we are doing now is the scratch coat. this material is very hairy with goat hair. it is very sticky. so we're trying to get this coat on. it is about 3/8 thickness.
we will leave it for about four weeks to harden and then we will come back and do the next bit. here on the wall exhibit we can describe the same process we are doing on the ceiling. at the top you see the split left. this is the scratch coat that we are putting on the ceilings now. the scratch coat goes through and hangs on. the scratch coat is named for an obvious reason. the plasterer uses a piece of wood and scratches this when it is wet. the purpose of the scratches is
for the second coat to bond to this layer. the whole art of lime plastering which has not been done in this country since 1900 -- it is all about the timing. this has to bond to that while it is still wet. that is the art of having somebody who knows lime plastering. the amount of time that it takes to do this on to this varies with temperature and humidity. there is an art to the timing. first coat and second coat. lastly the white coat is a thin
coat of lime without so much sand which is a smooth, marble-like feeling. this is the material that jefferson was coloring on the wall. the reason you use pigmented lime wash was you can put color on a fresh plaster wall immediately because the lime wash is the same material as the plaster. if you want to put oil paint on you might have to wait a year or two because it takes a long time to dry out. here we can see one ceiling that is already finished with the scratches. this will be curing for about a
month. it will then receive the second coat. what we are doing in the interior now, before and after the plaster process, is we are putting up all of the wood trim in the house that john hemmings had made originally. what is significant about what this is, this has been done by hand, not machine. all of these classical roman moldings that were important to jefferson have been made with a hand plane. in this case, this is antique poplar wood. jefferson is surrounded by the poplar forest. the poplar tree forest which gave the house its name. it was a distinctive part of nature that jefferson loved.
we're using jefferson-era wood, from one of his poplar trees using the same techniques. this will all be painted. we have the arches raised, the rail, the bases down here. in the top, in this entry passage, we have the beginning of the and entablatures in the -- beginning of the entablatures in the house. the entablatures, above the column in the greek or roman architecture. we are in the lower level of the house. >> in this restoration process we are using the bench to create moldings.
most of them are out of poplar wood. the tools we are using for modern-day woodwork -- we are going back in time and using different old-style tools. we have a newer tool but it is made in the old way. it is a wood body plan with the grooves to hold it in place. this one actually has the doors that were in the house. we have used this for some of the window panel jams. some of the other tools to make these pieces like this where you have -- this is part of the
cornice of the entablature, and you have a lot of concave or convex areas. you cannot use a flat plane, you have to use one that has either a round bottom -- i hope you can see this. it is the wood body. you have the rounded bottom to create some of the areas. the other type would be this type where you can create around it on the material. what it can do is maybe a few passes with this plane as a demonstration. what we are trying to do is use these tools. in this location, people can
come in and see us in the process. i will show you how that works. that process is just a few swipes. you can see you are starting to run in the path of the plane across. if you continue, you will have a profile. the important part of the history here of the workmen who created poplar forest in the original time period. john hemming is working for thomas jefferson.
we're happy that we're able to share the story of the history, along with the process of the restoration. you can watch this and other american artifacts program by visiting our website at c-span.org/history. ispan, where history unfolding daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by american cable companies. unfilteredring you coverage of congress, the white ande, the supreme court, public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. american history tv is on c-span3 every weekend featuring
museum tours, archival films and programs on the presidency. there is a recent program. >> all of this economic change, federal spending, demographics, corresponds to a cultural change. i thought this one would be appropriate. winston cigarettes, right? y'all don't smoke, i know. winston cigarettes, this is a 1971 at and i thought this would be a good one. you have a young couple here, very well to do, sitting at the thanksgiving table as mom brings the food. everybody in this most american feast, especially associated with the larger american theology of itself and its story, and connected up with that in winston.
what i want you to notice his right ear. -- right here. the traditional slogan was " winston tastes good the way a cigarette should." before playing on the beach, or skiing, and in the early 1970's, winston's down-home taste taste promise. it is the notion of down-home. in 1938, had gone from the nation's number one problem, and in the 1970's, thanks to the sun belt, only five years after selma, to a part of the nation that maybe seemed most american. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website where all of our visio -- video is archived. that is c-span.org/history. >> henry kissinger was secretary of state under president's nixon and ford. american history tv
was at the organization of american historians annual meeting in sacramento, california, where we spoke with professor daniel sargent about kissinger's influence on u.s. this is about 15 minutes. host: daniel sargent, professor of history at uc berkeley and the book is titled "a superpower transformed." a key player secretary of state , henry kissinger. what new have you learned about his role, his influence, and his tenure under two republican administrations? >> a great deal, during the research that ultimately resulted in this book, i was able to read thousands of new documents, memorandums, meetings, telephone conversations, and this is still an enormous amount -- there is still anrm