joy magnetism: If men were angels...

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If men were angels...

Magnet #208 - James Madison's Montpelier government would be necessary.
- James Madison,
4th president,
"Father of the Constitution"*

Happy Constitution Day! This day in 1787, our founding fathers signed the Constitution, forever cementing the foundation of U.S. history.

And, at James Madison's Montpelier today, they're celebrating another foundation - that of wrapping up their five-year campaign to restore the presidential mansion back to its former glory.

Interesting, but slightly freaky fact: James Madison died on a July 4...the same date that Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Adams died. But, when Madison died, he was pretty much broke, leaving Dolley to have to sell off Montpelier. Each subsequent owner renovated, and in the end, the house was almost unrecognizable. Indeed, the last owners - the duPonts - had a 55-room house, versus James and Dolley's 22. Whoa. But, if I remember correctly, the last duPont owner left her entire estate to restore Montpelier.

That's where the fun begins. When they began the restoration, the house began to talk. We had a terrific tour guide, and based on her passionate lecture, it truly must have been supercool to work at Montpelier these last several years, discovering all the secrets of the house, not really knowing what was under that floor, in that wall, or over that door.

They found out that there were like 51 doorways in the original house...and by the time we visited, had only found 38 of the missing doors...only they weren't missing, they were just in different locations.

They found out that the windows beside the grand entrance? Didn't open outward: they slid right into the walls - something unheard of back in the day.

Dudes, they even found a rats' nest with bits of a Madison letter (!), and wallpaper, which let them figure out what wallpaper to use!

Ok, ok, suffice to say that the Montpelier tour was one of the coolest live exhibits that I've ever been to, and I'm totally looking forward to going back.

*Source: I rarely ever need to source things, usually because I can link to them, but I find it incredibly funny that a lot of this tour that we did back in 2006 was repeated in the Madison article in American History magazine (Oct 08) that a friend saved for me.

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1 comment:

julie said...

that was a great tour! maybe we should go back on my 28th birthday next year. and we can keep looking for that bear, too. :)