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Shadwell, Virginia facts for kids

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Shadwell, Virginia
A view of the Rivanna at Shadwell
A view of the Rivanna at Shadwell
"Birthplace of Thomas Jefferson"
Shadwell, Virginia is located in Virginia
Shadwell, Virginia
Shadwell, Virginia
Location in Virginia
Country United States
State Virginia
County Albemarle
361 ft (110 m)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 434

Shadwell is a census-designated place (CDP) in Albemarle County, Virginia, United States, located by the Rivanna River near Charlottesville. The site today is marked by a Virginia Historical Marker to mark the birthplace of President Thomas Jefferson. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with Clifton.

Before early colonists moved into the Shadwell area, Monacan people had trails that traversed what became Shadwell. Peter Jefferson, the father of President Thomas Jefferson established and named the Shadwell plantation in the mid-18th century. Four generations of the Jefferson family lived at Shadwell. Initially, it was a plantation worked by enslaved and free people and grew tobacco, grain, and clover. Then, a grist mill, sawmill, and carding factory expanded the Shadwell economy. Canals and locks were constructed in the Rivanna River to transport goods, including lumber, flour, grain, and cotton-yard. After the carding factory burned down in the 1850s and the Louisa Railroad was completed, Shadwell began to decline economically. After that, the Shadwell estate became a farm, operated by Downing Smith. In 1991, an archaeological study found remnants of foundations and cellars of two houses, one of which is believed to be the original Jefferson house.

Located within the Shadwell, Virginia area are the Clifton and Edge Hill historic homes.


In 1770, the Jeffersons' house at Shadwell was destroyed in a fire, and the family moved to the Randolphs' estate at Edge Hill. The site today is marked by a Virginia Historical Marker. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with Clifton.

After the U.S. had won its independence, Thomas Jefferson desired to reform the Virginia government. In September 1776, eager to work on creating the new government and dismantle the feudal aspects of the old, Jefferson returned to Virginia and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for Albemarle County.

By 1835, Shadwell was home to a large carding factory employing 100 workers, a large merchant mill owned by John Timberlake & Son, and a sawmill. It also had several general stores at Shadwell, shops, and private dwellings. As the Rivanna River was navigable as far as the town, grain and tobacco were shipped downriver from Shadwell. The town prospered until 1850, when the factory burned and was shut down permanently.

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