A Birthday to Remember


When was the last time you had a party with 1,000 of your friends? Montpelier was thrilled to welcome the more than 1,000 people who joined us a few days ago to celebrate the anniversary of James Madison’s 260th birthday!

Mr. Madison’s birthday celebration also set the perfect stage for the Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 to launch its two-year long commemoration of the war. The inaugural event, the unveiling of an historical highway marker dedicated to Dolley Madison, took place on Mr. Madison’s special day. The marker commemorates Dolley Madison, who won the admiration of the nation when she and Paul Jennings, a young slave in the Madison household, rescued the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington just before invading British troops burned the White House in 1814. Mrs. Jean Ann Bolling, wife of Virginia Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, unveiled the Virginia historical marker honoring Dolley Madison. The marker, located outside Montpelier’s main entrance, reads:

As First Lady of the United States from 1809-1817, [Dolley Madison's] social graces, political acumen, and enthusiasm for public life became the standard by which first ladies were measured for more than a century afterward. Before the British burned the White House in August 1814, Mrs. Madison oversaw the removal and safeguard of many national treasures, including a large portrait of George Washington.

The Dolley Madison marker is the first of two dozen markers to commemorate the War of 1812 in Virginia that are now in development with the Department of Historic Resources (DHR). The marker is the result of a broad-based collaboration between DHR and the Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 to create new highway markers that inform the public about what many people call “America’s forgotten war.”

The commemoration of James Madison’s birthday continued later in the afternoon when Marine Corps Base Quantico Chief of Staff Col. Mark Kauzlarich placed a wreath on President Madison’s grave on behalf of President Barack Obama. Delegate M. Kirkland Cox, majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates and chairman of the Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, offered remarks during the ceremony.

In addition to the two ceremonies, “James” and “Dolley” greeted their more than 1,000 visitors throughout the day. A lovely time was had by all who attended. Check out the photos on the Montpelier Facebook page and please mark your calendar for March 16, 2012 and plan to be at Montpelier for the anniversary of James Madison’s 261st birthday!

The Montpelier Foundation








Montpelier Staff