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Photograph courtesy of Scenic America

Montpelier, the lifelong home of James Madison, the "Father of the Constitution" and fourth President of the United States, was also home to three generations of the Madison family from 1723 to 1844. The mansion core was built by Madison's father c.1760. Madison, born in 1751, married Dolley Payne Todd in 1794. After a second presidential term, the Madisons returned to Montpelier in 1817 where their legendary hospitality kept them in touch with world affairs.

With advice of his friend, Thomas Jefferson, Madison enlarged the house, adding the Tuscan portico c.1797. Additional changes were made c.1809 by James Dinsmore and John Neilson, master builders working for Jefferson. A domed garden temple was also built on the property. The house was further enlarged c.1900 by William duPont. Today, it remains the nucleus of a 2,700-acre estate containing farmlands, forests, formal gardens, 135 buildings, and a steeplechase course. Upon his death in 1836, Madison was buried on the estate. Dolley Madison later returned to Washington where she died in 1849. Her grave is also in the Madison family cemetery at Montpelier.

Aerial view of Montpelier and surrounding grounds
Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Following Madison's death, the contents of the house were auctioned off and Montpelier changed hands six times until it was purchased in 1900 by William and Annie Rogers duPont. Mr. duPont enlarged the house dramatically and added barns, greenhouses, staff houses, and even a train station. Mrs. duPont created a 2.5-acre formal garden which has been restored by the Garden Club of Virginia. The duPont's daughter, Marion, took over the 2,700-acre property in 1928. Today, the Montpelier property is owned and exhibited by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The mansion is undergoing a $30 million restoration to return the plantation house in size, structure, form and furnishings to the home that James and Dolley Madison knew in their post-presidential years of the 1820s.

Montpelier, a National Historic Landmark, is located four miles west of Orange on State Rte. 20. The house is open daily for tours from April-October from 9:30am to 5:30pm, and November-March from 9:30am to 4:30pm, while the grounds and museum store are open one-half hour later than the house; closed Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. There is a fee for admission. Call 540-672-2728 or visit the website for further information. Montpelier has also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey

Montpelier is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.



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