Excavations at the Madisons' First Home, Mount Pleasant (1723-1800): Summar of Archaeological Investigations 1997-2004

Abstract: Mount Pleasant served as the first home for the Madison family at Montpelier and was the childhood home of President James Madison. When the home was first occupied by the Madison family, it served not only as shelter, but part of the adjoining yard became the family burial ground with the death of Ambrose Madison, grandfather to the President, in 1732 (Figure 1.1). Despite the special place Mount Pleasant holds at Montpelier, almost no historical documents exist to describe this family home, the appearance or layout of its structures, how long it existed, or any details regarding the activities that took place there. As such, archaeology served a central role in defining the appearance of the Madisons’ first home. Mount Pleasant was one of the first sites at Montpelier to receive serious archaeological excavations in the late 1980s and prior to the 250th birthday of James Madison was the subject of four years of intensive excavations.  Ironically, just one month after Madison’s 250th birthday, archaeologists finally located the dwelling house of the Madison family at Mount Pleasant; prior to this time, excavations had focused on the service yard that contained the detaching kitchen, a slave quarter, and the work yard for the family home.  For main report, click below, but for appendixes, click here.