Montpelier is a historic home and National Trust for Historic Preservation site located in Orange County, Virginia. It was the lifelong home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution, author of the Bill of Rights, fourth President, and chief architect of the American Republic. Madison’s widow, Dolley, sold the property in 1841, and, after a series of owners, it was purchased by William duPont in 1901. In 1983, the heirs of Marion duPont, William’s daughter, bequeathed the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Restoration – Part I
In December, 2003, the Montpelier Foundation launched a complete restoration of the Montpelier mansion. The decision to restore was based primarily on the importance of James Madison to the formation of the United States government and an 18-month state-of-the art architectural and archaeological investigation that revealed that much of the Madison-era home was intact within the duPont additions.
With the restoration, the mansion was being returned in size, structure, form, and finishes to the home that James and Dolley Madison knew in the 1820s.
The restoration project removed alterations made to the Montpelier mansion after President Madison’s death in 1836. A majority of the removals involved taking off the two large wings that had been added onto the mansion by the duPont family in the early 1900s. Portions of the home were open to visitors during restoration, providing guests with an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the restoration of the lifelong home of an American President and patriot. On September 17, 2008, the house was officially reopened in a grand Constitution Day Celebration.
Restoration – Part II
As the architectural restoration winds down, the next phase of restoration begins. This phase is focused on the challenge of refurnishing some of the rooms to the way they would have looked when James and Dolley Madison and James’ mother, Nelly Conway Madison, were in residence in the early 19th century. The focus is on the rooms about which there is the most information: the Drawing Room (108), the Dining Room (105), Mother Madison’s best room (112), and Mr. Madison’s room (the room in which he spent the final years of his life) (104).
Montpelier’s Curatorial department is currently underway with a three year grant-funded research project to locate, understand and provide context for Madison furniture and decorative arts. Since this is such an exciting journey the hope is to engage the visitor and share the process of discovering Madison objects with them. As the process is ongoing, we will continue to add more objects into the mansion over the coming months and years, and keep the world updated with entries on the blog. We hope our visitors will continue to come back time and time again as the interiors continue to evolve; changes within the Mansion interior will be very frequent as research advances and objects are acquired.
The architectural updates were written by Gardiner Hallock, the Director of Architectural Research, and architectural photographs were largely the work of architectural historian Maggie Wilson. In January 2009, the blog shifted focus from the architectural restoration to the refurnishing and restoration of the interiors. These updates are written by members of the Curatorial Department and posted by Megan Brett, the Curatorial Database and Records Manager. For more information please visit our website at www.montpelier.org