Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Back on Saturday, when it was 70 degrees and feeling like spring, we took a day trip to Montpelier,  home of James Madison, about a one and a half hours drive west of DC.  We had always passed signs for it on the way to Charlottesville, and I have been wanting to visit for a long time. The home was built by James Madison's father, around 1763, and is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  James Madison was born and grew up at Montpelier, lived here with his wife Dolley Madison, and returned here in 1817 after serving as our fourth President. James Madison died at Montpelier in 1836. The home was purchased by the William du Pont family in 1901. The du Ponts lived there for nearly 80 years and donated the house to the National Trust for Historical Preservation in 1984. The home went through an extensive restoration which was only completed about five years ago and now shows the mansion as it was when James and Dolley Madison lived there in the years after his presidency.  No photos are allowed inside the mansion, which is still being furnished with pieces authentic to Madison's time.  In one of the front rooms there is a chess table set up by the back windows,  where Madison reportedly had many a chess match with his good friend, Thomas Jefferson.

Front of the house

We toured the house and we especially liked Madison's second-floor library, where he spent many hours reading and studying history, while forming his ideas on how our government should be structured. His study and thought formed many of the principles of our government and our Constitution. James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers, and is called the 'Father of the Constitution.' Much of his writing was done in the library at Montpelier, overlooking this beautiful Virginia countryside.

Looking west from the house toward the Blue Ridge Mountains

Walt reading with James and Dolley
Framed structures on the site of the old slave quarters

I loved loved loved this Cedar of Lebanon tree, and it is believed to have been a gift to James Madison from the Marquis de Lafayette around 1824.

The cedar of Lebanon tree stands at the entrance to the walled gardens, which were designed by the du Ponts, but the pathways and parterres are from Madison's design. The walled garden was restored in 1992 by the Garden Club of Virginia, to reflect Madison's garden of fruit trees, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  While obviously nothing was in bloom when we visited, it was still interesting to see the structure of the garden, the parterres, and the hardscape. I loved the boxwood allée and all the garden urns and ornament. There was a row of tree peonies that I was drooling over, would love to come back and see those beauties in bloom.

This boxwood allée is amazing

Loved this moss-covered urn

It's always kind of a thrill to visit the homes of our Founding Fathers, and walk around the homes and gardens where they spent so much time and thought.

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