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Tuckahoe was the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson and is a National Historic Landmark, protected in perpetuity by a preservation easement donated by the owners. It is considered by architectural historians to be among the finest early 18th century plantation homes in America.
Built between 1730 and 1740, this unique Randolph family plantation home and many of its original outbuildings have stood the test of time for almost three centuries.
The Randolphs of Tuckahoe
Tuckahoe was built by the Randolph family between 1730 and 1740. The Randolph family had an enormous influence in shaping the habits customs and politics of both the colony and the nation. Tuckahoe is the only early Randolph home still standing on its original site.
The Tuckahoe house was constructed in two sections. The North end of the house was built first in 1733, and the center hall and south wing followed by about 1740 giving Tuckahoe its unique H-frame construction. Original outbuildings along Plantation Street, which include Quarters for the enslaved people there, the Old Kitchen, and more, make Tuckahoe one of the most complete early 18th century plantation layouts in North America.
“Thomas of Tuckahoe”, one of the sons of William and Mary Randolph of Turkey Island, first settled Tuckahoe’s site in 1714. It was Thomas’s son, William, who is credited with building the mansion as we see it today.
The mansion was built in the era of great plantations in Virginia, during the 17th and 18th centuries. There were few towns or cities in the colony, therefore, plantations developed as economically and geographically independent entities. At its height, Tuckahoe consisted of 25,000 acres that farmed tobacco, livestock, and wheat with three mills on the property.
The Jeffersons’ time at Tuckahoe
William Randolph and Maria Judith Page started their family at Tuckahoe in the 1730’s. By 1745 their three children were orphaned at Tuckahoe after the untimely death of both parents.
Before his death in 1745 William ensured that his children would be cared for and educated at home should he die. In his will, he named his good friend, Peter Jefferson and cousin Jane Randolph Jefferson, guardians of his children.
After William Randolph’s death, Peter and Jane Jefferson moved to Tuckahoe with their children, including two-year-old Thomas, to care for the plantation and the Randolph children and stayed until 1752 when the young Thomas Mann Randolph came of age.
Thus it was that Thomas Jefferson spent his youth at Tuckahoe and received his first education in the small one-room school house that still stands today (pictured below).
It is interesting to note the architectural features of Tuckahoe, including elaborate cornices, alcoves, grand staircases, and domed ceilings that may have influenced Jefferson’s thoughts on architecture.
The Wights of Tuckahoe
As is the story of many wealthy plantation families, the Randolphs eventually began to sell off portions of the property to cover debts. Hezekiah Lord Wight acquired Tuckahoe around 1830 and left it to his son, Edwin Wight, upon his death in 1837. A number of enslaved workers were freed through his will however the majority remained enslaved on the property. Between 1840 and 1850, it was estimated there were between 30 and 40 enslaved workers.
The Allens of Tuckahoe
The Wight family owned Tuckahoe until around 1850 when it was sold to Joseph Allen. When he died in 1862, the property and the enslaved workers were left to his son, Richard Allen. Records from the Allen period show a very detailed and organized layout of the fields with the various crops that were planted, how the fields were fertilized, etc. There are also more detailed records of the enslaved workers which include names, ages, shoe sizes, and where they worked on the property.
After the Civil War, a number of the enslaved families remained in the area and very likely continued to work at Tuckahoe as paid servants.
The Coolidges of Tuckahoe
The Allen family sold Tuckahoe to the Coolidge family around 1900. The property was once again in the hands of the original family as the Coolidges were relations of the Randolphs. While the family maintained their permanent residence in New England, they did spend some time at Tuckahoe and were know to have had a large family gathering with many Randolph descendants on the front lawn. Pictures of this celebration can be seen inside the Old Stable building.
The Baker-Thompsons of Tuckahoe
The current family of Tuckahoe began their ownership in 1935 when Isabel Ball Baker purchased the home. With the intent to protect the home and keep it intact, the home was purchased by Ms. Baker and continues as a private residence for her grandson and his family to this day. To insure the continuing preservation “in perpetuity” of this special place with its historic buildings and undisturbed setting of great trees, gardens, fields and forests, the Thompson/Krusen family donated conservation and historic easements to Virginia’s Board of Historic Resources and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.