Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Director Leaves Mark Twain for Thomas Jefferson

Photo: John Groo for The Mark Twain House & Museum
Jeffrey L. Nichols has resigned as executive director of the Mark Twain House & Museum to take the position of president and CEO of Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's plantation retreat near Lynchburg, Va.

"I will always cherish my time at The Mark Twain House & Museum," Nichols said. It's been an honor to lead the museum over the past five years, and I know that the future is very bright for the organization. I can't thank the board, our donors, and the wonderful staff of the museum enough for their hard work and dedication to the organization. I will miss everyone in Hartford, but I'm also thrilled to begin the next chapter in my career."
During Nichols' tenure as Executive Director, The Mark Twain House & Museum achieved record attendance and was named a Top Workplace. The budget has been balanced for the past four years and the program events and exhibits have increased, including a community writing program and new programs for local students.
Patti Philippon, who is Beatrice Fox Auerbach Chief Curator of the museum, will serve as interim director while a search is conducted to find Nichols' replacement.
The 577-acre Poplar Forest, run by the nonprofit Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest, is a National Historic Landmark recently added to the United States nominations list to become a World Heritage Site.
Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha inherited the plantation from her father in 1773. The couple took refuge there in 1781 when they left Monticello, about 60 miles away, to elude British capture. In 1806, President Jefferson traveled from Washington to supervise the laying of the foundation for the octagonal brick Palladian house he designed for the site, and which still stands.
After Jefferson retired from public life, Poplar Forest provided him with significant income and the perfect setting to pursue his passions for reading, writing, studying and gardening. The property was sold after his death, and in the late 20th century it fell into disrepair. A citizen effort rescued it.
Today the property is regarded as an important example of state-of-the-art historic restoration and archaeological research, and is open for tours, events and school outreach programs.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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