Montpelier and a Bit of History

Its was July 4th weekend, and it seemed fitting to visit Montpelier, the home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution and our fourth president.  Over the years the home changed hands many times and many changes had been made to the mansion.  The Dupont family owned the home for 82 years when it eventually was willed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  With a generous grant from the estate of Paul Mellon, many years later, the home was painstakingly brought back to the time James and Dolley Madison resided there.

The original mansion was built out of brick by Madison’s father. Being a plantation home, almost all materials were made on site. Madison was born and raised at Montpelier, but when public service called he was absent from the estate. After leaving the White House, James and Dolley returned to Montpelier, and James set about a redesign by adding a full first floor wing on each side of the home. Thomas Jefferson was living at Monticello at the time (eight long hours by horseback) and he helped Madison with the design. 

Over the years, the exterior of the home had been covered with stucco, but it was carefully removed by hand to reveal the original bricks. The interior of the home has had nearly two centuries of paint and wallpaper removed to reveal some of the original hand-split lath, which was then re-plastered in the manner of the original. Some of the rooms have a representative piece of furniture displayed, but much of the furniture has yet to be recovered. The archaeologists are searching for the original furniture, but it is a difficult task.  Also, more research is needed to identify the types of window treatments and wall coverings used during the early 1800s. They have much to do before the interiors will be completely restored, but these dedicated archaeologists and trades men and women move confidently forward in their quest.

It was an idyllic day. I could not help feeling a sense of wonder about the estate, and about the man and woman who called it home. – Alexander Interiors, McLean, VA

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