Encompassing roughly 40 square miles of Piedmont countryside, the Madison-Barbour historic distirct (Viriginia's largest rural district) is one of the state's best-preserved cultural landscapes. The rolling, semi-mountainous terrain is broken periodically by broad stretches of fields and pastureland that attest to the area's rich tradition of agriculture and land preservation. A web of 18th- and 19th-century roadways offers expansive views of unspoiled pastoral scenery and early landscape features such as fence rows and old road beds. For more than two and a half centuries the area's gentry have exhibited their wealth by erecting some of the state's most impressive country houses. Sprinkled through the district are several 19th-century hamlets including Tibbstown, Barboursville, and Somerset.
The district's name refers to the area's two most prominent landowning families, the Madisons and the Barbours, who were responsible for its two nationally significant plantation complexes--Montpelier and Barboursville. The district also contains more than 200 contributing dwellings in various national styles and vernacular forms reflecting a broad socioeconomic spectrum, including Frascati, built c.1823 in the style of Thomas Jefferson; Rocklands, a significant architectural creation of early 20th century; and the Somerset Christian Church, c.1850.
The Madison--Barbour Rural Historic District is roughly bounded by Rte. 15, the Rapidan River and the Albemarle and Greene county lines. The district is several miles large and a driving tour is recommended.