Mr. Madison’s Room

Research & Collections
 

A Refuge for an Aging Founder

Called Mr. Madison’s Room by visitors during Madison’s retirement, evidence indicates that he spent his final years in the small chamber adjoining the dining room. As his health failed, Madison’s activities were centered in this singular, multipurpose space where he could still visit with guests, participate in dining room conversations, and have easy access to his library nearby. While partially public, the room was more private than the Drawing Room and South Passage, and provided opportunity for intimate conversation and quiet contemplation. Visitor John Latrobe noted that “dinner was served in a room adjoining Mr. Madison’s.” The room’s older French furnishings reflect the couple’s European taste and early acquisitions, as well as retirement-era repurposing of furnishings originally procured for their sophisticated Philadelphia townhouse in the 1790s.  Paul Jennings, Madison’s enslaved manservant, poignantly described Madison’s death in the room in 1836.

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"Mr. Madison was lying on a French bed, supported  by pillows; a white cap drawn down to his eyebrows, and a white flannel dressing gown wrapped around his attenuated form."

John H. B. Latrobe to Charles Carroll Harper, August 3, 1832