Sunday, November 9, 2008

Friday Day Trip

Home of The Great Little Man
President James Madison's Montpelier.
Also the Home of The First Lady to be Called First Lady,
Dolly Madison.
The history of this home is so full and fascinating. The home was built by President's James Madison's father, James Madison the first. When James Madison finally married late in life (early forties) hehad another wing added to the house. Then essentially this home became a duplex. The two side doors that are on either side of the main door were the entrances to each duplex. The fancy center entrance was added after James Madison's father died. Oh, another tidbit of info: James and Dolly used to jog on this portico in rainy weather when they couldn't take a walk to stay in shape. So Dolly was also our first jogging first lady!

Montpelier in later years became the former home of Marion DuPont Scott, heir to the DuPont Chemical fortune in Delaware. When Marion died in 1983 she left her grand country estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This is the one historic home that Jack and I keep returning to for it is a work in progress. The DuPonts added many stucco additions to the building so for the last twenty years this house has been stripped down literally to its foundations to return it to the days of the Madisons in the 1700's. The DuPont additions were carefully removed and the ballroom and art deco horse room were recreated in a wing of this visitor's center.
I must digress a moment. In 1989 Jack and I were here with daughter Jeanine one fall weekend. She returned Monday to her fourth grade class and told them that she had visited James Madison's home and that her mom tore some wallpaper off the walls in the reception room. Well, I was mortified! I had to call the teacher to explain that I did remove some wallpaper but I was encouraged to do so because the house was being returned to the Madison era.
So this house has truly been a work in progress and this past September Montpelier finished the structural restoration and had a grand celebration. Now the trust will work to find fitting furnishings and wallpaper will be recreate to match for instance the red flocked wallpaper found behind the crown molding in one room.

When look you look towards the mountains in this photo which was taken from the front portico of the Madison house you see in the foreground the steeplechase horse track. The entire time we were waiting on the portico for our tour we saw horses being raced on the track. The Montpelier Steeplechase Races that were held last week at Montpelier is the only place in America where steeplechase horses jump natural brush fences. Lots and lots of old boxwood on this property.
Gene and Sandra posing at the entrance to the formal gardens which have the most beautiful views of the mountains to the west.
The backside of the Madison's home. The first time we came here we were told by the guide that James Madison owned around 100 slaves. And that he threw many parties for which the slaves small children had to prepare for on this very lawn. James Madison used a herd of sheep to keep the grass "mowed" and when guests came for a party and games on the lawn the slave children were instructed to go and pick up each and every sheep dropping on the lawn. Can you imagine that and now imagine that after all these years we will have our first black president and first lady.

Montpelier Website:
Montpelier Hunt Races Website:


Linda Reeder said...

Thanks for the tour. I love US history.

fishing guy said...

Joann: What neat history for you to share.

Erin said...

good to see that they have finally finished the exterior work...when we were there in august the grounds around the mansion were dirt. it looks lovely now. i just loved the tour of the mansion...a lovely place in such an idylic setting.
thanks for sharing.