Monday, May 8, 2017

October 2012: Washington DC--Part II

Gazebo on the grounds of Montpelier

James Madison's home at Montpelier

The play, "First Freedom" is about religious freedom as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.  James Madison, one of the Founding Fathers and fourth president of the country, was militant about protecting religious freedom in the newly minted United States, and he introduced the first nine amendments to the Constitution.  The first being:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Since that was what the play, "First Freedom" was about, one of the more important parts of our research trip was to visit James Madison's home at Montpelier, Virginia.  The story goes that Madison had witnessed a group of Baptist preachers jailed for doing nothing more than publishing their beliefs.  This stayed with him always and he advocated for religious freedom for the rest of his life.  Separation of Church and State is a charged subject these days, but I tend to think of it in the traditional sense of making sure that there is no state sponsored religion, and that no religion will be able influence the making of laws in it's favor.  That doesn't mean, necessarily that religions cannot be politically active or have opinions, it means that the government won't make laws limiting religion and won't make laws favoring a particular religion.  These days, I think most people believe the first amendment is about freedom from religion, but that is a topic for a different blog.  This blog is about my travels.

Montpelier was built in 1764 by James Madison Sr.  It was made from bricks that were actually made and fired on the property.  James Madison Jr, who later became POTUS, remembered helping the family move the furniture into the home as a lad.  In 1797, James Madison Jr moved into Montpelier with his wife, Dolley.  He added the portico to the home as well as expanding it further.  In 1809, Madison added a drawing room and extensions at either end of the home.

After Madison died, the house was sold to other folks who remodeled and made additions to it.  The last people to own it before the current preservation efforts were the DuPont family.  In 1984 The National Trust for Historic Preservation took control of the property.  There have been ongoing efforts at restoring the home to the condition it was in when Madison owned the property.  One result of the restoration and archaeology on the grounds is the discovery of the foundations of the slave quarters.  It was estimated that there were 100 slaves in residence at Montpelier at one time.  The National Trust is making every effort to tell their story as well as the Madison's.

We sat through a presentation, then we took a tour through the home.  When we were there in 2012, we weren't allowed to take photos inside the mansion.  We were allowed to photograph the grounds, however.  Speaking of photographs, it's probably time to stop talking and start showing.

This was on the inside door of my hotel room in DC.  Pretty sure I didn't pay this much

Train depot in Montpelier

That shows a sinister

part of our history

The portico at Montpelier

The Palladian window and door

Bricks made on the property in a Flemish Bond pattern

Those wooden structures represent the slave quarters at Montpelier

I love the repeating corbels 

I believe this was the well house

This is a sculpture of James and Dolley in the backyard, as seen from the balcony in the house

Pretty dang cool shingles

One of the original chimneys

More brick

Hyrum Conrad and me posing with James and Dolley

Cellar entrance

Rear view

Entrance to the gardens

Detail of the gazebo

View from a different angle

Strange pinecone.  Tried to identify it, failed

Remnants of earlier construction

More remnants

Wooded path on the property


Then there was this guy

More brick

Iron gate to the gardens

Brickwork around trees in the gardens

More brickwork

Then there was this scary, Gothic, tree branch hanging out over everything

Corner of the house

We spent the morning at Montpelier.  Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were best friends.  Their homes were about 30 miles apart, and when they would visit each other, it was an all day trip to get there.  They would stay at each others' homes when they would visit.  Today, it only takes an hour to get from Montpelier to Monticello.  When our visit with James Madison ended, we headed over to Monticello to visit Thomas Jefferson.  That visit will be shown in post #3.

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