Montpelier James Madison

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Montpelier was the estate of James Madison, fourth President of the United States. It is four miles (6 km) south of Orange, Virginia, and covers some 2,750 acres

The land, in the Piedmont of Virginia, was acquired by James Madison's grandfather, Ambrose Madison, and his brother-in-law Thomas Chew, in 1723. Ambrose and his family moved to the plantation, then known as Mount Pleasant, in 1732. When Ambrose died only six months later, poisoned, it was said, by three African American slaves, his wife Frances managed the estate. In time she was assisted by their only son, James Madison, Sr., later known as Colonel Madison. Colonel Madison's first-born son, also James, was born in 1751 at Belle Grove, his mother's family estate in Port Conway, but was soon taken to Montpelier where he spent his first years before being taken to a new house built by his father half a mile away. This new house forms the heart of the main house at Montpelier today. Built around 1764, with two stories of brick in Flemish bond, and a low, hipped roof with chimney stacks at both ends.

James, Junior inherited Montpelier after his father's death in 1801 and retired there after his second term as president came to an end in 1817. In 1797, after his first retirement from politics, he added a thirty-foot extension and a Tuscan portico. Single-story flat-roofed extensions were built at either end of the house and a Drawing Room was created out of two of the existing rooms in around 1810. James Madison died in 1836 and is buried in the family cemetery at Montpelier. His widow, Dolley Madison, moved back to Washington, D.C. after his death and sold the estate in 1844.

Montpelier was permanently staffed by an enslaved African population which fluctuated in size but averaged approximately 100 during James Madison's tenure as owner.

After some renovations in the later 1800s (c. 1855 and c. 1880), the house was acquired in 1901 by William and Annie Rogers duPont of the du Pont family. The du Ponts preserved much of the core of the Madison home, gardens, and grounds of Montpelier as a legacy for all Americans while enlarging the house considerably. They added wings that more than doubled the size of the house to 55 rooms.

It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

In 1983, their daughter Marion du Pont Scott bequeathed the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Montpelier is open to paying visitors. A major restoration program was started in October 2003 and ended in 2008. Montpelier continues to host the annual Montpelier Hunt Races, an autumn steeplechase event started by Marion du Pont Scott and her brother William du Pont, Jr. in 1934. At the entrance to the Montpelier garden is the largest of several Cedars of Lebanon, this one certainly planted during James Madison’s lifetime.

Montpelier abuts the James Madison Landmark Forest, a 200-acre (0.81 km2) stand of old growth forest, one of the largest and best preserved groves of old-growth piedmont forest in the eastern United States.

Montpelier is the site of many annual events, but there are three events in particular that draw large crowds: The Montpelier Hunt Races, the Montpelier Wine Festival, and the Fiber Festival.

The Montpelier Hunt Races have been a Virginia institution for over 75 years. Montpelier boasts one of the only steeplechase tracks in the country that still uses traditional hedgerows for jumps. Montpelier always hosts seven races at this event. Guests may watch the races directly at the rail, and experience some of the finest and most exhilarating racing in America. This event is always on the first weekend in November.

The Montpelier Wine Festival showcases distinctive arts and crafts, speciality food vendors, local agricultural products, and, of course, Virginia wine from approximately 25 different Virginia wineries.

The Fall Fiber Festival happens every October, and is a popular regional event. The event showcases every aspect of textile manufacturing, from the production of wool to the finished product. Events include sheep shearing, craft demos, and a host of other activities. The most popular feature of the Fall Fiber Festival is the Sheep Dog Trials.

Montpelier James Madison

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