Thanksgiving Trip – Monticello, Montpelier and Meander Plantation, Virginia – Part 1

I know- this was a terribly long time to wait to do something with these images – Thanksgiving was November of last year. No excuses will be offered. My parents and I have a tradition of going somewhere within a reasonable driving distance of home every year over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, usually anchored around visiting house museums. It started a couple years ago going to the Hagley Museum outside Wilmington, Delaware, and the Barnes Collection. Another year we went to see The Oatlands plantation outside Leesburg, Virginia. This trip we went to Charlottesville, Virginia to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, and Montpelier, James Madison’s home. We stayed a few miles away in a plantation home turned inn, Meander Plantation.

Montpelier:

Home of James Madison, the fourth President of the United States. He drafted the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) from Montpelier. Like so many southern gentleman plantation owners, he was better at spending money than making it or managing his estate, so when he died, his wife was left with massive debts that she could little afford to pay, so she ended up having to sell off the lands and eventually the house as well. In the 20th century, Marion Scott Dupont owned the house, which had grown to quite a large edifice with 55 rooms. She bequeathed the house to the National Trust for Historic Preservation upon her death in 1983. In 2003, an effort was begun to return the house to the 22 rooms of James Madison’s time – the restoration was completed in 2008. Today, due to the trials and tribulations of time, the house is largely comprised of empty rooms, with the odd bit of furniture here and there as Madison’s original belongings were sold off and scattered to the four winds nearly two centuries ago. The remaining 2600 acres of the original estate are today devoted to an equestrian center, gardens and agricultural research.

The View from James Madison's Library
The View from James Madison’s Library
The Blue Ridge Mountains, from Montpelier
The Blue Ridge Mountains, from Montpelier
Fence, Approaching the House, Montpelier
Fence, Approaching the House, Montpelier
Fence Detail, Montpelier
Fence Detail, Montpelier
Front Porch, Montpelier, from Madison's Temple
Front Porch, Montpelier, from Madison’s Temple
Madison's Temple
Madison’s Temple

You may be wondering why I’ve not included any images of the full front of the house. They take tour groups through in 10-15 minute intervals, and there were always groups of tourists on the front porch, and/or baby carriages and wheelchairs parked out front that were most un-photogenic.

After touring the house, you can visit the gardens that Marion Scott Dupont installed.

Walled Garden Entrance, Montpelier
Walled Garden Entrance, Montpelier
Garden Lion, Montpelier
Garden Lion, Montpelier

The gardens at that time of year present mostly boxwood hedges that aren’t terribly interesting without getting an aerial view. So you’ll have to suffice with the garden lion for now.

Exit, Walled Garden, Montpelier
Exit, Walled Garden, Montpelier

The return path to the visitor center:

Lane to Visitor's Center, Montpelier
Lane to Visitor’s Center, Montpelier

The Duponts had a private rail line that came to Montpelier as Marion Scott Dupont’s father, William Dupont, worked in Washington DC and wanted to have easy access to work and home. The rail station still stands and is now a civil rights museum. Across the street is a well-preserved Esso station from the 1920s.

Montpelier Esso Station
Montpelier Esso Station

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