November 15, 2011

We the People

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.

Preservationists had debated for many years about what to do with the house.  Should it be restored to its original appearance when Madison was born?  Should it reflect instead the additions made by Madison?  Or, should the alterations and additions undertaken by the DuPont family be preserved?  I had not kept up with the final decision.

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
Although we had to drive back to the campground in the rain and the dark, which I hate, I’m so glad we were able to visit Montpelier.  It’s a stop that I would highly recommend.


  1. Gee, it's so crazy that you all were within shouting distance of me in Charlottesville! I've toured Montpelier too and it's just lovely. Anyway, glad you are following us home to WV!! LV

  2. LV, Tim and I relly loved Montpelier. We are looking forward to seeing you in a few days. Sarah