Owners of Montpelier

Research & Collections

The Madison Family (1723-1844)

  • Ambrose Madison (1723-1732)
  • Frances Madison (1732-1741)
  • James Madison Sr. (1741-1801)
  • James Madison Jr. (1801-1836)
  • Dolley Madison (1836-1844)

Henry W. Moncure (1844-1848)

Henry Wood Moncure (1800-1866) was a merchant from Richmond. In 1842, he was deeded 750 acres under the condition that the title to the property would remain unencumbered. The agreement also allowed Moncure to rent a portion of the house for three years until final payments had been made.

Dolley sold the rest of the Montpelier land and the house to Moncure in August 1844. The purchase included many of the slaves and much of the personal property, including furniture. In a touching note to Moncure, Dolley expressed her “readiness to return for a short time in order to assist in the arrangements of the household contents which must be in confusion—some of which I wish to retain." She also stated, "No one I think can appreciate my feeling of grief and dismay at the necessity of transferring to another a beloved home."

Benjamin Thornton (1848-1854)

Henry Moncure sold Montpelier to Benjamin Thornton of Gomersall, Leeds, England on October 14, 1848. Included with the property was some of the Madison furniture that Moncure had purchased.  Archaeological investigations, combined with documentary accounts, have provided clues that the Thornton made changes to the Portico, demolished the buildings in the South Yard, removed the Madison carriage road, and brought the driveway to the front of the home.  In addition, new hip roofs were added over the wings to replace the leaking terrace roof system and the entire house was stuccoed to give the appearance of a granite home.  The renovations changed the Madisons' neoclassical design to that reflecting the Greek Revival period. 

William H. Macfarland (1854-1855)

William H. Macfarland (1799-1872) was a prominent and wealthy banker from Richmond. He purchased Montpelier on January 4, 1854. A native Virginian, Macfarland's purchase of Montpelier from the Englishman Thornton was enthusiastically supported in the local press. The Charlottesville Jeffersonian and Fredericksburg News noted:

"MONTPELIER: W. H. Macfarland has purchased Montpelier, the former residence of James Madison, Esq., the fourth president of the U.S.A. We are glad that this estate has fallen into the hands of a Virginian and it is hoped that a suitable monument may now be erected over the remains of Virginia's eminent statesman and patriot."

Macfarland, apparently an admirer of James Madison, had given Madison's eulogy in 1836 at a memorial service in Richmond. He only remained at the property for a little more than a year, and his use or impact upon it is unclear.  However, it was during Macfarland's ownership that the obelisk was built upon President Madison's grave. Up until this time, the president was buried in an unmarked grave similar to the rest of his family.

Alfred V. Scott (1855-1857)

Macfarland sold Montpelier to Col. Alfred Vernon Scott (d. 1860) by deed on March 21, 1855. Scott, his wife Rebecca Ballard Nixon, and their children moved to Montpelier from Alabama. Again, the tenure of these residents was brief, and by August 1, 1857, the property had been sold to Thomas J. Carson and the Scott family moved to Washington, D.C.

Tho mas J. Carson and Frank Carson (1857-1881)

Thomas J. Carson, a native of Ireland, immigrated to the United States and was a banker in Baltimore at the time he bought Montpelier. Following the start of the Civil War, he remained in Baltimore, and Montpelier became the home of his eccentric bachelor brother, Frank Carson. Confederate troops intermittently camped at Montpelier during the war, and it was apparently also a popular touring place for other soldiers and for refugees. For these reasons, more descriptions of Montpelier exist for the Carson period than for any other time between the Madison and duPont ownerships.

The Carsons lived at Montpelier for over 20 years and during this time, the house fell into disrepair and the brick wall around the Madison cemetery began to crumble. This was just the beginning, and the economic hard times of the post-war era saw the value of Montpelier fall from $8,000 in 1857 to $3,500 in 1881, the final year of the Carson ownership. Frank Carson died in February of 1881, at age 62, and was buried in the Madison Family Cemetery. He is the only non-Madison with a marked grave in the cemetery.

Louis F. Detrick and William L. Bradley (1881-1900)

The last nineteenth-century owners of Montpelier were business partners Louis F. Detrick of Baltimore and William L. Bradley of Boston. These gentlemen were in the fertilizer business, and they and their families used Montpelier as a country retreat and part-time residence, as well as a model farming operation.

Extensive remodeling and redecorating was done during this period. This work was so sweeping that by 1896-1897, an article in Architectural Record notes that "The interior of Montpelier has been remodeled out of all semblance to its original self." Wallpapers in the Aesthetic/Anglo-Japanese style were added in many rooms; fragments were discovered behind duPont-era woodwork during the restoration.

Charles King Lennig (1900)

William duPont's secretary Charles Lennig acted as his agent in the purchase of Montpelier. While he nominally owned the property, he never lived at Montpelier and made no changes.

The duPont Family (1901-1983)

  • William duPont Sr. (1901-1928)
  • Marion duPont Scott (1928-1983)

William duPont Sr. bought Montpelier in January 1901, and the duPont family retained the property until the death of Marion duPont Scott in 1983. The duPonts made many changes to the property during the 82-year ownership, but also preserved and repurposed many significant elements of Montpelier’s architecture. MORE>>

National Trust for Historic Preservation (1984-present)

The heirs of Marion duPont Scott transferred ownership of Montpelier to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1984, in keeping with the wishes expressed in her will. The National Trust retains ownership today, while the Montpelier Foundation operates the property.

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A Long History of Private Ownership

Montpelier was privately owned for over 250 years, until the National Trust for Historic Preservation took over the property in 1984.

Madison Family Cemetery

Frank Carson, co-owner of Montpelier between 1857 and 1881, is the only non-Madison with a marked grave in the family cemetery.