Barboursville Ruins – Barboursville, Virginia - Atlas Obscura

Barboursville Ruins

Barboursville, Virginia

The ruins of this Thomas-Jefferson-designed mansion have been left to crumble since the Christmas Day they burnt down. 


The historic mansion known as Barbourville once belonged to James Barbour, a wealthy American lawyer, the governor of Virginia during the War of 1812, a two-term U.S. Senator, and the Secretary of War under John Quincy Adams. The home was destroyed by fire on Christmas Day in 1884, and since has been left as a ruin, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969.  With conservation undertaken by the Zonin family, owners of Barboursville Vineyards, the ruins of Barboursville are now open to the public on a regular basis. 

Barbour’s home was built in the first quarter of the 19th century with completion at least by 1822.  It was based on designs by his close friend and political ally, Thomas Jefferson, who provided workmen from his own Monticello home. The eight-room home was not the most ostentatious house, but it was grand in its own way, with multiple two-story chambers and featured an octagonal drawing room and portico very similar those at Monticello. There was also supposed to be a large dome added to the top of the house, but this feature was eliminated while the house was being built. While the house itself was not extraordinarily large, the boxwood gardens surrounding were impressive.

The 1884 Christmas Day fire destroyed everything but the brick walls, the interior masonry partitions and the grand fluted columns. Today the ruins are on the grounds of Barboursville Winery, one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in Virginia.  Adjacent to the ruins, another Barbour building has been renovated as the 1804 Inn and an even earlier building provides lodging as The Cottage. While there aren’t too many presidents passing through the estate’s halls these days, they are the site of a number of weddings which take advantage of the history and magnificence of the Barboursville Ruins. 

Know Before You Go

The Mansion is available for visiting when the winery is open (10-5 every day, closed Christmas Day and New Years Day). It is an enjoyable 1/4 mile walk from the winery, or you can drive to a parking lot adjacent to the ruins. The site is occasionally closed for weddings and infrequently for agricultural spraying. Call ahead if you are concerned about closures.

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December 4, 2015

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