Mr. Madison's Temple (1801-1817)

Research & Collections

Based upon the tempietto of Bromante in San Pietro, Rome, Mr. Madison’s Temple was historically referred to as the “summer study.”  While there is no evidence that he ever used it as such, the structure would have been cooler in the summer months because of the ice-house that extended approximately 30’ beneath the wooden floorboards.

Archaeological investigations into the ice-house revealed the fantastic quantities of iron slag associated with the 18th-century Blacksmith’s Shop, but otherwise was itself empty and sterile of artifacts.

This important landscape feature was framed from the mansion by the Pine Allée and would frequently draw comment by visitors to the mansion.  Yet the Pine Allée also served to screen and otherwise obscure the work activities that occurred beyond it in the area of the North Kitchen.  Similar plantings were also present on the south of the mansion, obscuring the South Yard.

Today, Mr. Madison’s Temple has been consolidated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, replacing the wooden floor with a concrete one, stabilizing the foundations, and sealing up the original entrance for visitor safety.

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The columns that hold the massive dome of the temple also run deep into the earth and provide an anchor against the soil surrounding the 23 foot deep pit of the icehouse.  During Madison’s day the floor of the temple was a wooden deck—William duPont changed it to concrete in the 1910s.