Montpelier Restoration Update – 9/3/2008

Count Down to the Grand Opening: 15 Days

A video montage of some of the work that has occurred over the past week at Montpelier


The painters have coated the portico deck with a sanded paint and continue to prime the doors and windows. The sanded paint is based on sand grains that were found in a sample of the circa 1812 deck paint analyzed by Dr. Susan Buck and Natasha Loeblich and we have replicated the original paint by adding a silica-based grit.

Jack Fisher has started to put the final coat of linseed oil paint on the doors and is working on touching up other small areas (some of which have been damaged during the on-going restoration). He is also applying a shellac varnish to the doors replicate a varnish that was found in the paint samples taken from the original Madison-era doors.


Gene Lyman continues to install locks in the original and reconstructed doors.

Keith Forry continues to repair original Madison-era doors and he has installed the eastern door of M-106 (North Passage) with a wrought iron butt hinge. Physical evidence revealed that these somewhat rare hinges were used on this doorway.


Mark Gooch has finished installing the reconstructed sashes and has started to glaze the lunette window that will be mounted in the tympanum of the Portico.

Steve Chronister has also re-hung the unique single-hung sidelights found on either side of the main doorway. He is using a six-strand, hemp rope, identical the sash cords used by Madison, to hang the sashes. Amazingly the original circa 1812 sash weights survive for these windows. The weights have been marked with the initials JN, letters which appear to stand for “John Neilson” who was one of the two lead carpenters to work on the 1812 renovations and expansion.


Blaise Gaston and Paul Pyzyna are finishing the doors for the cellar and the Dolley stoop deck framing and decking. They have also finished lathing the modern screws into reproduction 18-century screws for the mansion’s door hinges.


Luther from the Ceiling and Floor Shop in Charlottesville is installing new carpeting in the Mansion. While this carpeting will unfortunately cover the original Madison floors, it will also protect them from the hundreds of thousands of visitors who will tour Montpelier in the coming years and ensure that the floor will survive for many more generations. Luther has almost finished laying the carpet on the second floor.

M-108 (Drawing Room)

All but one of the reproduction paintings have been hung in the Drawing Room (M-108).

The floors in the drawing room, as well as the North Passage (M-106), South Passage (M-109) and Entry (M-107) have been waxed. The decision to wax these floors was based on Madison-period visitor accounts and no other floors in the house will be finished. To wax the floors a mixture of bees’ wax and carnauba wax called Briwax was used. The two of the gentlemen from the Rosebud Company that initially removed the modern floor finishes, Michael and Howard Purser, returned to apply the wax.


Sod is being laid in front of the Mansion. The sod is from a neighboring sod farm in Orange County and the sudden appearance of grass has transformed the Mansion and it now appears to be very close to completion.

Mac Ward is putting the final paint coat on the pieces of the South Wing’s eastern exterior stairs.

Kevin Neito has finished the retaining wall that will help form the work yard found outside of the North Kitchen (M-001).

Bill Bichell poured the footers for the colonnade deck steps. Former restoration carpenter Olivier Dupont-Huin has also rejoined the restoration crew to help us build the Colonnade steps before the grand opening on September 17th. It is great to have Olivier back and we are all grateful that he is taking time away from his boat to help with the stairs.

The fence for the west yard has been laid out and the posts are being installed. The layout of the fence is based on archaeological excavations that located the position of the original posts and a circa 1818 watercolor.  The new posts are made out of locust, a traditional material for fence posts.  The fence’s curved rails and swaged pickets will also be installed over the next two weeks.


2 Responses to Montpelier Restoration Update – 9/3/2008

  1. Ted Miles says:

    What a fabulous project! you folks have turned a historic site with a mix of periods into a place that the Madison’s would call home and the public will be able to understand for the first time!

    I hope that the opening is as grand as you plan!

    Ted Miles

  2. Thanks Ted and the opening has definitely been grand. We probably had close to 5,000 visitors today and there was a line to get into house for hours. Having all those visitors in there at once was quite a test for the mansion’s framing and structural stability, but everything held up admirably.

    We have also developed a new tour to go along with the restored Mansion and so for the first time visitors will really be able to understand how Madison the man developed along side the changes that he made to the Mansion and how he, as well as Dolley and the enslaved residents at Montpelier, used the home.

    Take care,


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