My main mission was to go to Monticello, but when I checked out the map, I found that James Madison’s Montpelier was on the way. So I decided that I had better at least stop by! Now Montpelier and Monticello are only about 30 miles apart, but that is an hour drive today (especially if you get lost like I did!) and was a full day’s trip in Madison’s and Jefferson’s day. The great part of being out here is that you really feel that you go back in time. You are out in the country and it is very rural and quiet, which makes it easier to put yourself back in time!
A couple of things to remember when visiting Montpelier:
- There are TWO James Madison sites in Orange, VA. The first (in town) is the museum and the second is Montpelier (out of town a little way).
- The house tour alone takes about 45 minutes, so plan for a couple of hours to visit Montpelier as there is a lot of ground to cover (2750 acres and 130 buildings). For the rest of grounds, you are given the audio guides that talk to you rather than a live guide.
- It is currently under renovation, but is still giving tours.
There is great signage into the area so just follow the signs after you get on Highway 20 (Constitution Highway). The visitor’s center is right on the road, which makes it easy to find.
- The cost of admission for an adult is $12 – which is fairly steep, but National Trust members do get a 50% discount.
Some of the grounds – you can see how huge this is and how rural it still is. This is actually me, so excuse the photography!
This is the map of the grounds – the map was too big for my scanner, so I just gave you the main part to give you an idea of how much there is to see here!
You can see the extensive restoration going on.
You can read a history of the house on the Montpelier webpage. The origin of the name of plantation isn’t certain. At first the place was referred to as Mount Pleasant, but that name disappears from use in the 1720s. The earliest record of the name Montpelier is a letter from 1781. President Madison actually preferred the French version, Montpellier meaning “Mount of the Pilgrim.”
James Madison was a slave-owner (he owned about 100) and the site offers a tour of the enslaved community as well as education on the slaves who lived here.
Stayed tuned for Part II: Monticello!
For some background on my trip, check out My DC Trip...An Introduction