The last time we visited Montpelier was 18 years ago, soon after my husband and I had moved to Charlottesville and about a year after we were married. He had been pining to go back to the house again since it was restored to look as it did in the 1820s when James and Dolley Madison lived there. He reminded me that when we had first visited the house, there was nothing to see but a single room decorated in art deco style with an elaborate zinc bar. It was the sole relic of the days when Montpelier was the private country estate of the duPont family, before they bequeathed it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983. The garden was nothing but overgrown boxwoods.
Why did we even bother go to Montpelier if that’s all there was? I asked my husband as we drove back from our visit.
Well, we didn’t have all that much to do back then…he replied with a nod toward the passel of kids in the backseat.
A lot more than that has changed since we were last at Montpelier. The five year restoration included removing 20th century additions to the house, restoring the brick exterior, and furnishing rooms with period pieces. The restoration was completed and celebrated on Constitution Day, September 17, 2008. It’s remarkable to stand inside the library where Madison sat looking out onto the Blue Ridge Mountains, surrounded by books he would have consulted as he worked on what would eventually become the Constitution of the United States.
Photos aren’t allowed inside the house; the only photos I could take were of the Annie duPont Garden: