The Montpelier we are speaking about today is not the southern French town but the home in which James Madison was born, lived, and died. Montpelier is a special place in our nation being the site in which Madison crafted the Federalist Papers, the ratification of the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Being in the presence of where the fibers of the United States took hold is an experience all to itself.
However, Montpelier also has a soiled history. It is not forgotten that although Madison was the Father of the documents that we hold so dearly as the land of the free, that he was also a slave owner. He had more than 100 slaves actively working the land and producing income from the tobacco crops to fund Montpelier and the Madison's life. Montpelier is an example of how life in the United States has shifted and how a culture that once was can never truly be forgotten.
The land it sits upon today was purchased by the Madison family in 1723 and is located in Orange, Virginia. Montpelier was built in three phases starting in 1764 and not completed until 1812. Madison's entire life was reflected in this home and the knowledge, artwork, and furniture it comprised of reflected that. James Madison's accomplishments make an average life seem dull. He not only wrote some of the most influential documents of our time but he was also the Secretary of State, fourth President, and the founder of the Federalist party. Montpelier was a place for Madison to ground himself. With the hustle and bustle of Washington and the familiarity and solitude of Montpelier, it made for a life rich in reflection.
After his presidency, Madison returned to Montpelier with his wife Dolley. He lived out his remaining years with his dear wife by his side having never had children. When Madison passed, Dolley could not keep up with the expenses and preferred life in D.C. to the solitude of Montpelier. She sold the home to the duPont family.
During the duPont era, the home nearly doubled in size. The duPont's had substantial wealth and increased the rooms to 55 in total, covered the brick with stucco, and lived happily in the home for 83 years. In 1984, upon the wishes of Marion Dupont Scott, the home transferred ownership to the National Trust for Historic Preservation with an endowment to run the property.
Today, Montpelier looks like its old 1820's self with the help from a $25 million restoration project in 2003. This project removed the additions and stucco and replaced them with authentic materials from that time. Architects and historians are recreating each room based on the limited knowledge of what it may have looked like at that time. Guests are welcome at Montpelier and are encouraged to spend time in the place that shaped our nation. Guests can take house tours, walk the lands, roam the gardens, and enjoy the festivities. Montpelier hosts excavation events from their archaeology center, Constitution Day, and horse races.
The historic sites on the property include the house itself, a temple, a formal garden, the Madison Family cemetery, the slave cemetery, and the field quarters. Included with the renovation is also an archaeology lab with dig sites. There are over 2,650 acres to explore. Visiting this property is a history buff's dream.