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© Colin Broug

© Colin Broug

Featured House Tour

Montpelier, Virginia

Admission fee Photography
Docent Gardens
Audio tour Furnishings
Tour brochure Rebuilt
Museum shop Primary focus residents

Toured June 21, 2014

Montpelier, the home of President James Madison, was built by Madison’s father c. 1765. Since then, the house has undergone several major remodels.

While technically not rebuilt, Montpelier has been extensively restored to its 1810 configuration, when Madison retired. Massive changes made by subsequent owners—entire wings—were demolished; the interior dismantled and put back together; and still about 80 percent of the pine floors are original. There are original crown moldings (only in the drawing room), paneling (south passage), doors (37 of 61), windows, and sandstone fireplace mantles. James Madison’s Montpelier provides details of the restoration and includes front elevations and images of the various remodels through the decades and photographs of the restoration in progress.

The tour begins in the Visitor Center with a short film summarizing the life and legacy of Madison and the history of the house. The docent picks up the tour at the portico. The docent on our tour, Pat, was very knowledgeable and entertaining. She took us through the first and second floor, briefly discussed the architectural details and furnishings, and provided insight into how Madison and his family had used the rooms. Primarily the rooms were used as a jumping off point to discuss Madison’s life before and after his presidency. The sparse furnishings are mostly period pieces or reproductions of items known to have been owned by the family; however, there are a few pieces that are original to the house. Most of the second floor is unfurnished and contains exhibits, including a room that has been left partially unplastered so the wall laths and fireplace bricks can be seen. The cellars are not on the guided tour, but they are open to the public and provide a rare opportunity to see historical domestic work spaces.

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