During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Christmas was primarily celebrated through fellowship, festive entertainment, visits to neighbors and family, and holiday tidings sent to friends and loved ones. While there is no evidence to suggest that holiday decorations were placed in the interior or the exterior of Montpelier during the Madisons’ time, James and Dolley had other Christmas traditions.
This week we are putting the South Yard to bed for the winter after a long and productive season. We opened up an area 85′x45′ (approximately 180 5ft. x 5ft. units) and completely exposed two house areas in the South Yard. The South Yard is the site for the homes and work areas for the Madisons’ house slaves.
‘Tis the season for holiday traditions: decorating, baking, caroling and shopping are underway across the country. As we prepare for ”A Christmas Evening at Montpelier,” we’re also decking the halls with modern and Madison-era works of art to show our guests.
The Joe and Marge Grills Gallery is now showcasing a series a of historical images, objects, and artwork depicting the Montpelier estate. The exhibit is comprised of works from the early nineteenth to late twentieth centuries, and includes Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton’s 1802 watercolor, View of Montpelier.
Mr. Marion Broglie, a long-time participant in the Center for the Constitution’s seminars for teachers, recently took a few moments to share his thoughts on his professional development experiences. Mr. Broglie is an eighth grade civics teacher at Lynnhaven Middle School in Virginia Beach, Va.
The Madisons’ preference for stylish furnishings, as seen throughout the interior spaces of Montpelier, is further exhibited in a new installation in the Dining Room. On Friday, November 18, 2011, with assistance from historic textile consultant Natalie Larson, reproduction window treatments, including salmon colored silk drapery with green lining, sheer dimity under-curtains, and cornices decorated in the neoclassical style of John and Hugh Finlay’s Baltimore painted furniture, were installed in the Montpelier Dining Room.
Movements of people toward greater self-governance sometimes struggle to gain lasting hold, but there is a determination in the human spirit that drives these movements toward freedom. And it often takes multiple attempts at revision to eventually get it right.
As we approach Thanksgiving, we thought it would be fun to share with you an appropriate find for this time of year when “sumptuous” feasts are on everyone’s mind. As mentioned in a previous post, we are completing our excavations in the South Yard where we just recently located a linear trench that is 2.5 feet wide and runs for at least 12 feet.
Visitors to Montpelier during James Madison’s retirement vividly described the Drawing Room as museum-like and full of curiosities. Among these curious items was an “electrical machine,” likely intended as a party novelty to convey scientific principles and encourage socializing. Considered cutting-edge technology in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, electrical machines, also referred to as a “philosophical instruments,” were used to demonstrate emerging theories of electricity.