Montpelier Restoration Update – 7/30/2008


The painters are preparing and priming the cornice in M-108 (Drawing Room) and priming doors as they are installed. Jack Fisher is also putting the final paint coat on the woodwork in M-104 (Mr. Madison’s Room).


Gene Lyman has installed the exterior door in M-118 (South Wing Room) and the door that leads to M-115 (South Wing, East Closet). He is currently working on the door that accesses the South Wing Cellar Stair. Both the cellar stair door and the door for M-115 are original Madison doors that were re-used by the duPonts.

Keith Forrey has installed the exterior door for M-100 (North Wing Room) and is also working on installing locks and the door to M-101 (North Wing, East Closet).


Blaise Gaston continues to make interior doors and has finished the cellar door frames. He has also prototyped a reproduction period iron screw that will be used to install the reproduction H-L hinges.

The screws are based on original examples found in the house Blaise is hand turning each of pan head screws on metal lathe.


Mark Gooch has glazed the recreated window sashes with restoration glass and the glazing now is drying before being reinstalled. The glass we are using is a hand-made restoration glass that matches the original examples found in the surviving Madison-era windows.

M-105 (Dining Room)

Mason Kevin Neito re-laid the brick hearth in fireplace.

M-108 (Drawing Room)

Architectural research director Gardiner Hallock is installing the rosettes in the Drawing Room chair rail. These rosettes are made out of composition (or compo) which composed of hide glue, whiting (powered chalk), pine resin and linseed oil mixed to a doughy consistency. The compo dough is pressed into molds and, after it is allowed to dry, forms a hard, remarkably stable ornament.  The ornaments will eventually be painted the same cream color as the rest of the chair rail.

Montpelier’s ornaments were molded by Gold Leaf Studios in Washington DC and hide glue is being used to secure the ornaments to the chair rail. Composition ornament was popular in the US from roughly the 1770s through to the late 1830s and we know there was compo ornament in the Drawing Room chair rail from a surviving letter sent to Madison by his builder James Dinsmore. The pattern for the Drawing Room rosettes was taken from a surviving early-19th century ornament found at Arlington House in Arlington, Virginia. The Arlington House example was selected because the compo at Arlington house is believed to have been made by George Andrews (a Washington, DC area composition ornament maker), who is also known to have made compo ornaments for Montpelier.


Mac Ward has installed the framing for the South Wing deck stair landing and is currently cutting the stair stringers for the stairs that will lead down to the east lawn.

The original Madison road in front of the Mansion has been re-cut and a base of crushed stone has been laid on top of it. The crushed stone for the base is being pulled from the staging area that was installed to the rear of the mansion when the restoration first started and so we are also restoring the rear yard as the front road is being recreated.

The archaeologists are also monitoring the restoration of the road for any artifacts that might be churned up and along with lots of nails and small pieces of pottery they have found what appears to be a circa 1812 cast brass door knob eschuchteon that very likley was originally found on one of the doors in Montpelier.  Ghosts of the original eschuchteons had been found on the doors themselves, but it is always exciting to find the original object itself.


5 Responses to Montpelier Restoration Update – 7/30/2008

  1. […] Montpelier Restoration Update: The “Father of the Constitution’s” Orange, Virginia estate continues its restoration project. Included in this update is a video of architectural research director Gardiner Hallock installing rosettes in the Drawing Room, and photos of the recreated “Madison Road” leading up to the mansion. [Montpelier Restoration Updates] […]

  2. John Leeke says:

    What glazing putty did mark use? Did he make his own?

    Could you help me get in touch with Mark?

    –John Leeke

  3. John,

    Mark uses Sherwin Williams glazing putty for the windows (which is a modern alkyd “oil” based product. We are using alkyd oil paints (Benjamin Moore) for the exterior paints, so using an alkyd putty made sense in this application. However, it would be a lot of fun to make our own putty someday and let me know if you have any good recipes.

    I’d also be glad to get you in touch with Mark. Just email me your number at and I’ll pass it along.

    Take care,


  4. john leeke says:

    We have not yet made our own putty, but have been busy testing and analyzing commercially available putty and glazing compound products.

    You can catch up with our results and discussions here:

    and a few other putty topics as listed here:

    by hammer and hand

  5. John Leeke says:

    The “Make Your Own Putty” discussion over at the Historic HomeWorks Forum has a putty recipe:


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