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December 16, 2006
"Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labor of slaves" J. Madison.I have to say of the three presidential homes in the Charlottesville area, Montpelier is my favorite. There are several reasons for this. First I really like the Madisons, visiting the house will reinforce the fact that this was a very affectionate couple who remained close to the end of his life. What is really appealing here, though is seeing history from the bones up. Montpelier is a work in progress or rather a work having all the progress removed. Work is underway to restore Montpelier to the house that the Madison’s lived in. Montpelier was in the Madison family from 1760 until it was sold by Dolley in 1844.
Over the years additions and alterations were made including one by Mr. Dinsmore, of the Dinsmore House B&B, I found this of particular interest. In the early 1900s the Dupont family added two wings which are in the process of being removed. The house will be brought from 55 rooms down to 22 rooms. This offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a restoration of this type up close and personal.You will purchase your ticket to visit at the gift store which is across the street and down the road a piece. You then drive onto the property. There is a portable trailer where you get an orientation talk. You visit the house on a guided tour. Size of tours is controlled for obvious reasons, our group was 14 people. Marsha was our guide. We walk into the house where we can see down to the lathes. We are told that anything that is original and structurally sound will be left. 80% of the floors are original and almost all the doors. The bricks were made on the property and all the brick in the dining room is original. One of the really wonderful discoveries during the restoration was an original door that connected James Madison’s bedroom with. It had been hidden by later construction.After touring the house you can walk in the gardens or go to the museum where you will see a video called "Discovering Madison". There are also rooms constructed here as they will look when the house is complete and there is original furniture on display.We decided that we would also walk to the Madison graves. Let me warn you ahead of time that this is a very long walk. Maybe half a mile on a dirt path. By the time we realized how far it was it was too far to give up and turn back. I’m glad we went but don’t say I didn’t warn you.There is also a slave cemetery along the way. There are several ongoing archaeological sites being worked. Thomas Jefferson called his friend "The best farmer in the world". Work is scheduled to be completed in early 2008 when I hope to return.
From journal Captivating Charlottesville
May 23, 2006
In addition, there are staff members who give tours every so often. When you check in at the gift shop, the staff will be able to give you a schedule so that you can be sure to get in on these.
The guides take you to places within the house that you cannot go on your own. When I was there in Spring of 2003, our guide took us upstairs and showed us areas that were being restored. It was amazing to see "historic graffiti." Workmen from many years ago had actually signed their names on a wall before putting wall paper over it. It was interesting to think that even then, they realized that they were working for some very important people to American history.
When you come, plan to spend several hours here. The grounds are beautiful, and we really enjoyed taking the time to walk around the grounds and over to the family cemetery and slave cemetery.
From journal Virginia in the Fall