Update June 18, 2009

June 18, 2009

Read about us in the Times!

The New York Times, that is. Last Friday’s paper featured a column in the Art and Design section about historic sites interpreting slaves and servants in addition to the homeowners. We are mentioned and there are audio links to an actor speaking the words of Paul Jennings; this is the same audio which you can hear during tours of the house. The first recording, “I was always with Mr. Madison,” can be heard in Mr. Madison’s study (M104), the room in which Madison died.

Jennings was a slave of the Madisons who worked in the White House during Madison’s presidency and later returned to Washington, DC, with Dolley Madison after James’ death. It was in Washington that Jennings earned his freedom. At the end of his life, an interview with him was turned into a short book, A Colored Man’s Reminiscences of James Madison. Our own Beth Taylor is currently conducting extensive research into the life of Paul Jennings; you can buy a copy of A Colored Man’s Reminiscences in our gift shop to help support her research.

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Mr. Madison's Study

Shutters

All of the shutters have now been fitted, hung, and stamped with their location information. However, before we can hang them permanently, they need a little more work. We are sending them off to have all newly cut and fitted edges primed and top-coated and for all shutters to receive a copper cap, to get a final coat of paint, and then dry over the next couple of weeks. We will let you know when they come back and are hung again.

In Brief: Court Records

Another area of research we are investigating is court records. These can be helpful in a number of ways: to find lists of Madison property; track family inheritance and land ownership; and trace social and business connections by looking at who was involved in suits with, or against, the Madisons.

We started by looking at the records for the county in which Montpelier is located – Orange County, Virginia. The county courthouse has copies of the original deed and will books, which recorded the wills, inventories, and deeds of sale for the whole county. However, we are also searching through court proceedings to find mentions of the Madisons, some of which were moved to Richmond during the 20th century. There is a lot of material to sift through, complicated by the fact that how courts were organized changed more than once during James Madison’s lifetime. So far we have found some good leads, which are followed up by even more research in the court records!

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Update May 14, 2009

May 14, 2009

Constitutional Exhibit

Now open in the south wing room of the house (M118), which is accessible from the back yard, is our exhibit “James Madison: Architect of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights”.

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Those of you who visited Montpelier prior to April, 2009, may have seen the exhibit in our Education Center. The exhibit is self-guided, with commentary available on the audio tour. The exhibit describes James Madison’s role in the development, writing, and implementation of two of America’s most important documents – the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In addition to text, the exhibit uses images and excerpts from historical documents.

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The room is arranged so that you can view the exhibit at your leisure and utilize the chairs.  We hope our visitors will discuss the exhibit, the Constitution, or James Madison with each other.  In the future we would like to have staff lead discussions with our visitors that would include topics relevant to how the Constitution affects us today.

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Shutters

The shutters continue to be hung. This week they are installing more shutters on the front of the house20090514-2cs

 

 

 

 

Gene Lyman stamps the top of a shutter.

Since the shutters and their fittings are handmade, each shutter only fits in one window of the house. Thus, both window and shutter are assigned an identifier code.  Stamping the shutters allows them to be removed to be repainted or fixed and then be returned to their correct location.


Shutters Update April 29, 2009

April 29, 2009

The restoration crew has started to hang shutters on the exterior of the house.

Rear of the house, from the Architectural Record, Vol VI (July 1896-June 1897).

Rear of the house, from the Architectural Record, Vol VI (July 1896-June 1897).

The shutters are modern reproductions based on Madison-era shutters found in a barn here on the property. There were 31 shutters found in the barn, 12 for the second floor and 19 for the first. They retained their original paint coating, a green made from verdigris pigment, which is made from weathered copper. We’ve painted the reproduction shutters the same green, basing the coloring on research by Dr. Susan Buck (see this post for a picture of the process) Read the rest of this entry »