Mansion (1797-1801)

Research & Collections

When James Madison, Jr. returned to Montpelier with his new wife, Dolley, rather than selecting another location to build their new home they decided to add to the main house.  This addition was comprised of a 30 foot duplex on the north side of the mansion and, ultimately, the grandiose portico.

The addition of the duplex was not the only change that occurred in this time period.  By adding on 30 feet to the north side of the mansion, the Georgian symmetry of the formal landscape was thrown off.  In keeping with his father’s conceptualization of the landscape, Madison moved the southern landscape wall 30 feet closer into the house.  Of course, as learned from the archaeological investigations of the North West Yard, the “landscape wall” was in fact an entirely new structure—a flanking building.  The wall identified on the south of the mansion may actually represent an entirely new structure designed to balance the presence of the northern structure.

The flanking structures as depicted in The Honeymoon Years.  Note that the structure on the south (right) is hypothetical--excavations have revealed a wall, but it is not known whether this is part of a larger structure.

Original digital image by the Insitute for Advancement of Technology in Humanities (IATH), UVa. [Modified]