RAC Update – 1/30/2006


As the architects slowly produce drawings showing the HVAC specs we are determining where and how much Madison era fabric would be impacted by the draft design.  Chad K. is also working with a professor at UVa who is interested in having his student’s complete 3d models for past and present elements at Montpelier.  Currently the models could include, among other elements, Madison era outbuildings and landscape features, Madison interiors or updated facades. 

Madison Dining Room 

The mason’s have installed a frame in the window bay that appears to have been infilled in c. 1850.  This is one of the last window frames to be replaced and I believe the only one left is the bay currently used as a doorway on the east elevation. 

Nelly’s Chamber 

All of the paper backing from the linoleum has been removed and the floors look great.  Another area of disturbed flooring was found in a corner of Nelly’s Dressing Chamber.  The approximately 2’ x 2’ patch appears to relate to a post Madison heating grate or possibly a dumbwaiter (the opening corresponds to a patched area of plaster in the corner of Nelly’s kitchen). 

Dolly’s Chamber 

The same paper backing is currently being removed from the floors in this space.  While the paper has only just started to be removed, the floors again appear to have survived unharmed.  These floors also appear to be an inch or so narrower then the floors in the Nelly Chamber (roughly 3” to 3-1/2” instead of 4” to 4-1/2”).  The change of widths is interesting and could mean that, while the two spaces were nearly identical, the finer materials were reserved for the space occupied by the younger Malisons.  Of course it could also just mean that Nelly simply liked larger floorboards, but it will be interesting to see what the other subtle differences between the spaces reveals.

Once these floors have been uncovered we will also investigate to see if any evidence for Madison’s bookshelves can be found imprinted on the floors.  This is a long shot, but if we do find impressions that fit the existing bookshelves, then the theory proposed by Robert Leath (that Madison’s library was actually in Dolly’s Chamber at one time) will be further substantiated.

Drawing Room 

We have almost finished removing the finish coat from the walls of the drawing room.  To insure all of the post finish coat nail holes are recorded accurately, we have first marked the location all of the existing holes and nails (which almost exclusively relate to the duPont era picture rail) as well as the later patches found in the finish coat.  To insure accuracy, the evidence was traced on to plastic sheeting hung from the walls.  Next we removed the later patches in the finish coat and marked any holes, assuming for the moment that they all date to after the finish coat was applied.  Finally, we are removing the remaining finish coat and marking the holes as we uncover them.  While gypsum plaster gained general dominance around 1900, photographic evidence from circa. 1899 appears to show that the walls in the drawing room were already covered with a gypsum finish coat (a first generation picture rail, which was mounted on top of the finish coat, is also seen in the photo).  Therefore, the holes under the finish coat theoretically date from circa 1810 to circa 1890.  The challenge now will be to determine which of the holes correspond to the Madison occupation.

To help determine the different generations of nail holes (as well as a rough idea of what was being hung from the nails), we are currently planning on plotting all of the pre-finish coat holes into AutoCAD and then excavating each one to determine size, shape and depth.  However, patterns for a salon style display have already emerged and they appear to relate to Madison’s extensive collection of prints and paintings.  Much more work still needs to be done, but I can say that it looks like some evidence for Madison’s artwork hanging scheme still survives.  As you can tell the evidence is still a bit nebulous and we will hopefully be able to provide a much more confident report on the investigation during the RAC meeting.

Dolly’s Kitchen 

The archaeologists have returned to this space and have uncovered more evidence of a herringbone brick paving pattern.  The size of the impressions also corresponds to the paving bricks that survived in the room.  Not much else has been found under the circa 1900 concrete floors other then window glass, but it is possible more information will be recovered after the fill has been processed in the float tank.


The carpenters are still applying the first subfloor on the colonnade. 


Shingling continues and the repairs to the portico framing are ongoing. 



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