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Montpelier Pamphlet and ticket


May 3rd, 2008

 Montpelier, Charlottesville, VA


      We went to Montpelier May 2008.  Alas, it was under reconstruction.  Montpelier is the home of James and Dolly Madison (James was the 4th president of the US). 

James Madison Sr. built the Georgian house at Montpelier about 1760. The Madisons twice expanded it. In 1797, retiring from Congress, Madison moved to Montpelier with his wife, Dolley Payne Madison, and grafted a second residence onto the side of his parents' house. The addition looked and functioned much like an urban rowhouse of the era. In 1809, the year after he was elected president and eight years after his father's death, the younger Madison recast the center and added private wings at the ends.


     Later nineteenth-century (by other owners) remodeling attempted to make the portico more academic and monumental by recessing the porch floor and carrying the masonry columns to the ground. Pitched roofs were built over the wings. A grand marble mantel replaced the plainer Roman one in the drawing room, and walls were hung with colorful papers.


     William duPont Sr. bought the home in 1901 and enlarged it from thirty-six rooms above the cellar to 104. He also raised more than 100 structures on the grounds, including a general store. Only two of the house's first-floor spaces remained in their Madison-era form.


     Daughter Marion duPont inherited use of the property in 1928, and lived there until her death in 1983. A horsewoman, she married cowboy actor Randolph Scott in 1936. Upstairs, she created the "Red Room," a modernist lounge with chrome and white-trimmed red sofas, an Art Deco glass fireplace, and hundreds of photos of her prize-winning horses and jockeys. Marion Scott bequeathed Montpelier to the National Trust, who became the 9th owner, with a wish for its Madison-era restoration.

     It was long believed that Madison stuccoed the house when he added the wings. The explorations  in 2001 uncovered evidence that the brickwork remained exposed after Madison's death, probably until about 1858. This was sobering because it meant removal of all the stucco from the brickwork of all three phases, much of which was damaged, to fulfill Marion Scott's wish.

     The Montpelier Foundation made the choice to restore the house to the period between 1815 and Madison's death in 1836. Mellon funds are to pay for most of the restoration (about 20 million dollars). The foundation is to raise more for furnishings and some construction. The completion date is September 2008.


     Cost during the time we went was 12.00 per person.  This includes parking.  Things to see include the main house (currently under construction), formal gardens, several outbuildings (don't think you can go inside but I am not sure; we didn't attempt to), an education center that has information (water and restrooms available as well) and a few pieces of period furnishings, the temple (a stone gazebo), family cemetery. slave cemetery and the visitors center which houses a small place to eat (only place on the grounds where food and beverages are allowed), a gift shop, a small art museum (one room very small) which houses art, info and examples of clothing. and an excavation tent. Throughout the property, you'll see markers where there are indications there'll be reconstruction in the future perhaps; outbuildings and such.  There supposedly is a Civil War encampment but on this day we did not know where it was if anywhere... and when we arrived, there was a Wine Fesitval which included an encampment.  It might have been an additional encampment or perhaps this one was for Wine Festival guests only that weekend. I do not know.  I would suggest calling and asking.


    There's a lot and I mean a LOT of walking.  Carry water on the grounds (no trash receptacles till Visitors Center so you'll need to return there) and wear appropriate clothing, sunscreen and walking shoes.  It will take about 3-4 hours to walk through and read everything/see everything.  I'd wait until reconstruction is completed in Sept 2008 or even beyond that as they only have enough furnishings for 3 rooms so far.  Meal prices moderate (and not a lot of choice) and the souvenirs are equal to most places; pretty expensive for what you get.  Example... a cat I own from some other store was twice as much here. 



Left to right: 1) Window above front door 2) back of home under reconstruction 3) View of the front of the home 4) Basement kitchen 5) front of home 6) front of home from side


Left to right: 1) Formal garden center 2) side view of formal garden 3) one of the walls/gates 4) another wall/gate 5) a third wall/gate (entrance) 6) temple (like a gazebo) which is located near the home and not in the gardens.


Left to right: 1) Cemetery section where James and Dolly are 2) cemetery where other family members are 3) James and Dolly's markers 4) Du Pont barn and outbuildings 5) a tree on the property (one of three) that was presented to James Madison by the Marquis de Lafayette 6) This horse ran to the fence when I went by and looked right at me!  I call him my buddy.


Links of interest

Mount Vernon


Michie Tavern and Meadow Run Grist Mill

President's Park

Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson

Wine Festival

Dolly Madison


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