James Madison’s Montpelier

I recently took advantage of the opportunity to visit Montpelier, President James Madison’s home in picturesque Orange, Virginia. The property is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and managed by the Montpelier Foundation. In 2001, the Montpelier Foundation embarked on a mission to return the mansion back to its appearance during Madison’s time. With the help of architectural historians from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, they were able to conduct an extensive architectural investigation that included subsurface investigations on both the exterior and interior of the home. When physical evidence failed to produce necessary information, they worked to uncover documentary evidence, the most important of which was a bill from Madison’s master carpenter James Dinsmore which provided much information about the mansion’s interior.

Madison's bricks revealed.

The most dramatic discovery they made about the outside of the house was that the existing stucco finish was added to the house during an 1855 renovation. Underneath the stucco, Madison’s original bricks remained intact and they were revealed as part of the restoration.

Investigations inside the house proved to be equally productive. The location of all of the Madison era rooms was discovered and many of the original doors, trim, window sashes, and mantels were found to have been relocated rather than removed during renovations by subsequent owners.

The view from the front porch of Montpelier.

Members of the duPont family owned Montpelier for more than 82 years, from 1901 until 1983. Marion duPont Scott made arrangements in her will for the property to be transferred to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in order to be preserved as a monument to James Madison. Mrs. Scott was an avid breeder and owner of thoroughbred racehorses. Montpelier continues to host the Montpelier Hunt Races, an annual steeplechase event started by Mrs. Scott and her brother William duPont, Jr., and a 200 acre portion of the 2,650 acre estate is now home to a Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation farm.

Behind the white bench is a Cedar of Lebanon dating back to Madison's time. The tree is rumored to be a gift from France to James Madison presented by Lafayette during a visit in 1824, but there is no evidence to prove this claim.


To learn more about the restoration and James Madison’s Montpelier, visit http://www.montpelier.org/

For more about the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation: http://www.trfinc.org/




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14 Responses to James Madison’s Montpelier

  1. Loved your blog. I actually watched a television show about Montepelier a few years back and was so intrigued. Loved the pictures you shared. Would love to make this a destination on one of my hubby and mines annual road trips.

    • Ally says:

      It’s well worth the trip. I hadn’t visited since before the renovations started, and the transformation is amazing. They’ve uncovered so much history.

  2. Ally, loved this post. My husband and I love checking out historical places on trips. We’ve not made this one, yet but it’s on our list. Lovely pictures.

    • Ally says:

      Thanks, Marsha. It’s definitely worth the trip. Monticello and Ash Lawn (James Monroe’s house) are also nearby, so there are many historic homes in the area.

  3. Calisa Rhose says:

    You blog the most interesting historical things, Ally. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures. Oh- and I have an award at my blog for you to show how much I enjoy yours.

  4. Angelyn says:

    I love anything on beautiful buildings. This post was especially nice. Montpelier would have been quite at home as an English country house, with its fashionable Palladian design.

    • Ally says:

      I agree, Angelyn. During our tour of the house, they spoke about how Madison’s good friend and neighbor, Thomas Jefferson, helped him design the additions made to Montpelier from 1809-1812. The one-story wings at either end of the house with their rooftop terraces are remniscent of Monticello.

  5. Beautiful pictures, Ally. When I lived on the east coast, we made a few visits to Williamsburg, VA, and made a side trip one time to Montpelier. Beautiful place, is as Williamsburg.

  6. Great post Ally! You know I love anything that smacks of archaeology! (grin). We visited Monticello in Charlottesville, VA several years ago and loved the two huge trees flanking the entrance. They had to be two hundred years old. Can you even imagine what they witnessed in that time! Love it!

    • Ally says:

      If you want more archeological tidbits, you should check out the website. They’re excavating the slave’s quarters and have lots of other things going on. I agree about the trees. Living in Texas, tall trees and dense forest are two of the things I miss the most.

  7. Ella Quinn says:

    That was great. I love historic buildings.

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