About

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. 

Authors

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

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27 Responses to About

  1. I’m so happy to see the restoration web site is up and running again. We visit every spring and fall (Our next visit in Oct.) but like to keep abreast of the changes. We first found Montpelier in Jan. 04 as the mapping was just starting and we feel like it’s our own project so we have to be up to date on everything. This new site is easy to use. Thanks!

  2. Glad you like the site and please let us know if there anything we can do to make it easier to use. You’ll also definitely be in for a surprise this fall, with all of the plastering and trim work that has taken place in the last couple of months, the interior of the Mansion is really starting to look like a finished 18th/19th-century house.

    Take care, Gardiner

  3. Chris Bledsoe says:

    Congratulations on so much success in the restoration! I was most recently there last spring and it seems the team has come a long way since then.

    I saw an article in the Washington Post Oct 17 and some pictures there as well. I’m concerned that the walkway shown in the front of the mansion seems to be permanent, Is this actually the case? Reserving adjectives and comments and holding my breath until I get the facts…. Thanks.

    Best regards

  4. Chris,

    Thanks for the kind words and there has been a lot of progress in the last couple of months. The second floor is about 3/4s plastered and the carpenters are about a 1/3 through trimming out the first floor.

    As for the walkway/ramp, it has fortunately been removed and visitors now enter the house the same way they did in Madison’s time, by walking up the front stairs. We still have an ADA accessible ramp on the rear of the mansion, but it is much smaller and much less distracting. Here’s a link to a current view of the mansion’s facade: https://montpelierrestoration.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/mansion-with-out-ramp-small.jpg

    The soil level still needs to be raised to its Madison-era level (which should be done in the next couple months), but with the ramp gone you can really see the mansion as Madison intended it to look.

    Take care and thanks again,

    Gardiner

  5. Chris Bledsoe says:

    Gardiner,

    Great news, I’m so relieved!! I can’t wait to come back, hopefully next spring. Best regards to all.

    Chris

  6. Sarah Everett says:

    Hello! I am currently a senior in high school here in Juneau Alaska. I have been a intense and enthusiastic scholar of James Madison for almost two years now and I had the priviledge to go visit Montpelier this last July and I was in awe at all the work you all are dedicating to restoration! I even made freinds with the tour guide, Ms. Ann Ferguson. Going to Montpelier was the most amazing, memorable experience of my entire life and I am very eager to go back come next summer and possibly work there.
    You all are such an inspiration to me and I continue to keep you in my prayers.
    Thank you and have a wonderful day!
    Sincerely and God Bless,
    Sarah Everett

  7. My wife and I visited Montpelier a few weeks ago and really enjoyed touring the grounds. I was especially impressed with the 3D animated presentation in the Alan and Louise Potter Theater, the exhibits in the Center for the Constitution, and of course, the massive on-going restoration of the main house. Montpelier is truly a national treasure. The lifetime and legacy of the Madison family deserves to be preserved and presented, as they are often overlooked in favor of their comrades and contemporaries. Thank you for allowing us to keep track of the progress on the restoration via this blog.

  8. Sarah,

    We feel the same way about Montpelier and if you’re ever back in the area I’ll be glad to give you a tour that focuses on the house’s restoration and evolution.

    Take care,

    Gardiner

  9. Michael,

    Thanks for comments and we whole-heartily agree. With the architectural restoration quickly coming to an end (we should be substantially finished in six to nine months), Montpelier will soon become the ideal place rediscover the legacy of James Madison and his family.

    Take care and thanks again,

    Gardiner

  10. Marcella Padilla says:

    I was last at Montpelier in July 2005 and was told at that time that the mansion’s restoration would be completed sometime in March 2008. I was also informed that this would coincide with James Madison’s birthday and that a huge celebration event would be planned. Is this timeline still accurate and will there be a celebration in March 2008?

  11. Marcella,

    March 2008 was our original target date for finishing the Mansion and a majority of the restoration will be finished by March. Most of the plastering, trim work, and painting will be finished (although we’ll still have a long punch list). The official celebration to mark the opening of the Mansion is now planned for September 17th (Constitution Day). Everyone is invited to the celebration and September in Orange County, Virginia is spectacular, so it will definitely be worth the trip.

    Thanks for comment and let me know if you have any other questions,

    Gardiner

  12. Kevin Cartwright says:

    I see that the official celebration of the Mansion is set for September 17th. We are planning on travelling to the University of Southern California game at UV on August 30th. Will the Mansion be open to the public prior to the official opening? We saw the Mansion in 1995 and are anxious to see all the changes. Are the gardens also being restored to their original 18th century splendor.

    Thank you,

    Kevin

  13. Kevin,

    The house is actually open for tours right now and it will also be open in August and early September. I can’t promise that all of the doors will be hung or all of the hardware mounted, but you should still be able to see the house almost completely restored.

    The landscape around the mansion is being restored to its Madison-era appearance (including grading, roads and a fence), but the walled garden is not. The garden, which retains much what appears to be its Madison period terracing, is currently restored to it’s Marion duPont layout and is really quite spectacular in the spring and summer (and probably much changed since your last visit).

    Take care,

    Gardiner

  14. Steve says:

    We are planning on visiting Montpelier May 15, 2008. Will it be open for tours then, how much of the home will be accessible?

    Thank you!

  15. Steve,

    Glad to hear you’ll make it to the opening and almost all of the house should be open on the 17th (all of the first and second floors as well as the cellars). After the 17th these rooms will also be open on the normal tour with the first and second floors being a guided tour and cellars being left for you to explore on your own.

    Take care,

    Gardiner

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