Interior Restoration

Research & Collections
 

Investigation inside the house were equally productive. The location of all the Madison era rooms was discovered and virtually every vanished doorway, window, wall, chimney, and hearth was also located. Each discovery was documented through drawings, photos and narratives.

Among the most surprising, and pleasing, discoveries of the investigation of the interior, was the extent to which James Madison's Montpelier survived the later changes. More of its early fabric survived than anyone had supposed, and even 37 of the original 52 Madison-era doors were found scattered throughout the house. More than half of these doors were found reused in the duPont additions of 1901 to 1902. Similarly, pieces of the window and door trim, window sashes, and mantels were all found to have been relocated by the duPonts.

Stairways

Enough evidence for the Mansion's two major stairs, which were known as "black holes" prior to the investigation because so little information had been discovered, was found to determine their location and form. In addition, the doorframes that lead to the earlier of the two stairways were found intact in Montpelier's basement.

Surviving Madison-era Woodwork

The wainscot found in the South Passage at the start of the investigation was found to not only be original (dated to ca. 1764), but also be close to its original location.

Upstairs, the duPonts were found to have re-used the soffits and keystones from the first floor arched doorways that originally flanked the main entry space.

Downstairs, the jamb treatments of the same doorways were found reused in the two arched doorways that the duPonts installed in the Drawing Room.

The survival of original flooring was found to be extensive, especially upstairs, where it provided important evidence of later changes. Likewise, the survival of numerous Madison hearths and fireplaces was a pleasant surprise.

Even though all the chair rails had been removed from the house in ca. 1855, physical evidence from them emerged in Dolley's Chamber, the new Dining Room, the North Passage, the Passage above Stairs and the Drawing Room.

Where physical evidence failed, a bill from Madison's master carpenter James Dinsmore, which was discovered during the course of the investigation, provided a remarkable amount of information for the building's interior. The letter included information relating to everything from chimney pieces to baseboards. The detailed bill proved to be an invaluable guide for uncovering the original uses of interior rooms.

In the Drawing Room, James Dinsmore's mention of "1 Pediment over Door" led to the spectacular discovery of an overdoor treatment for the Madison opening that once served the South Passage. When the excavation of this vanished doorway treatment was completed, it was discovered that the original door and the paneled jambs for this opening was relocated by the duPonts to trim one of the entrances into Marion duPont's "Red Room."

Paint Evidence

Preliminary Paint analysis undertaken during the investigation revealed that the interior woodwork was generally painted an off-white color with gray baseboards. Additionally, important evidence for Madison's Drawing Room wallpaper came from a remnant of red, flocked wallpaper found above one of the windows.

 

Building a President's House: The Construction of James Madison's Montpelier

Conover Hunt, Bryan Clark Green and Ann L. Miller coauthored Building a President's House (2007) published by The Montpelier Foundation. This text discusses the various architectural campaigns to Montpelier during Madison ownership, the changes the duPont family made to the mansion, and the subsequent efforts of The Montpelier Foundation to restore the mansion to that of the Madisons' retirement.