Tim and I were driving around some of the battlefields near Fredericksburg when he spotted a road sign for Montpelier. James Madison’s home was just 26 miles away, so we decided on the spur of the moment to head that way. That’s what I love about our trip. We can change our plans, abandon our plans or simply make no plans as we choose.
I was particularly excited about visiting Montpelier and was intrigued to see how the restoration of the house had turned out. Montpelier, the lifelong home of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, had been transferred to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984 by the heirs of Marion DuPont Scott, whose family acquired the house in 1901.
As it turned out, the decision was made to restore the house to the way it looked at the time of Madison’s death in 1836. When the house was transferred to the National Trust, no one knew exactly what the house had looked like during Madison’s lifetime. An intensive eighteen-month investigation was undertaken, with a painstaking exploration of almost every inch of the house. This work slowly revealed the early appearance of the house and its evolution. It was then determined that enough physical evidence had survived to accurately restore Montpelier.
The restoration of Montpelier was completed in 2008, and today curators are working to rediscover the Madison furnishings and complete the interior reconstruction.
|The View from Montpelier Toward the Blue Ridge Mountains|
|Mr. Madison's Temple, Now Part of the Logo for Montpelier|
Since it was late in the day, we were fortunate to be given a private tour of the house, learning not only about the architecture but, more importantly, about the contributions of Madison and his wife Dolley to the country. Madison is considered to be the Father of the United States Constitution, and he introduced the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Tim and I had just viewed both documents last Friday at the National Archives. As president, Madison guided the country through the War of 1812, thus demonstrating that a constitutional government could survive a national crisis.
|Representation of the Original Kitchen and Ongoing Archeological Investigations|