Montpelier, the majestic home and grounds of President James Madison and First Lady Dolly Madison, rests in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This home is where Madison was raised and also where he returned to after his presidency.
A tour of Montpelier encompasses more than just a tour of the home itself. There are also historic buildings, gardens, a freedman’s cabin, the temple, archaeological sites and a state of the art visitor’s center.
The visitor’s center explains the $25 million restoration project that took place from 2004 to 2008. The visitor’s center also has maps, and an interactive model of Montpelier and insight into the furnishings and décor of Dolly Madison.
Another stop on the tour is Grills Gallery. This houses Madison’s spy glass, pistols, a snuff box along with Dolly Madison’s engagement ring.
The DuPont Gallery shows visitors precisely what life was like in the early 20th century. A café and museum shop are nearby.
The temple James Madison spent a great deal of time in also stands near the mansion. Madison often lingered, reflecting on government affairs and enjoying the scenery and one-of-a-kind views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Dolly’s hands-on-tent, where she had huge barbecues, is also part of the tour.
Another important building on the grounds is Gilmore Cabin. This was the home of George Gilmore, his wife Polly and their children. Gilmore was a former slave. His home gives a glimpse of what life was like for former slaves during this time in American history.
There are two cemeteries on the grounds of Montpelier. The first is the Madison family cemetery where James and Dolly both rest together. The other is a slave cemetery where 38 slaves rest. Archaeologists believe there are more slave graves sites.
There is also the 2 acre Annie DuPont Formal Garden which has a formal walkway, herb gardens and marble statues. Other points of interest nature lovers will enjoy include the James Madison Landmark Forest. This included 200 acres of trails. Overall, the gardens and grounds account for 2,650 acres of beautiful land.
Montpelier is home to active archaeological sites and an archaeological laboratory. This gives visitors the chance to not only see artifacts, but also to learn how they are extracted and cared for. One interesting site was found in 2002. A confederate Civil War encampment was discovered here.
Montpelier offers rates for groups and school tours. There is also the option of overnight accommodations, functions, and weddings on the grounds. Whether you have an hour to engross yourself in history or have all day, Montpelier has something for everyone.