J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

James Madison in Virginia

In February the Colonial Williamsburg podcast featured an interview with the actor now portraying James Madison, Bryan Austin. He portrays the future fourth President as a young lawyer.

In other news, this Charlottesville article cheekily titled “The Full Montpelier,” about the ongoing work to restore that Virginia estate, including “filling out the inside of the Madisons’ former mansion and erecting replica structures of the former slave quarters,” as well as establishing events.

And surprises are still lurking under the ground:
[Matt] Reeves is ecstatic because his team of 11 full-time archaeologists and 17 students from James Madison University has been excavating the foundation of an 18th century brick building a stone’s throw away from the palatial columned mansion that most of us think of when we imagine Montpelier.

No doubt, the wall in the front yard is a striking find in its own right, but something even more unexpected occurred around 2:30pm the previous day as the archaeologists dug out a layer of Virginia dirt to reveal the structure. Instead of taking a 90-degree turn as they had predicted—and which would have been typical of a structural foundation—the wall turned at a 45-degree angle.

“It’s totally different than anything else. It’s not square, and we have no idea what it is,” said Reeves. “It’s going to be cool, that’s all we know.” And so, they keep digging.
The article quotes Montpelier director Kat Imhoff as saying, “There’s this feeling that Madison is the Robin to Jefferson’s Batman, but it’s so not true.” To which I can only reply, what would be wrong with that?

3 comments:

EJWitek said...

One of the delights of a tour of Montpelier is the 200 acre tract of old growth forest directly adjacent to the mansion. It's one of the few places in Virginia or the eastern United States where you can walk trails through a forest that hasn't been touched by man in well over 200 years. The mansion grounds also contain some magnificent trees including a breathtaking Cedar of Lebanon certainly planted in Madison's time. A local tradition has it that three Cedars of Lebanon were a gift from France presented by Lafayette but there is no proof of that.
I visited Montpelier when the restoration was first started and was taken aback at the task faced in undoing all of the work done by its various owners over the years.
A visit to Montpelier can be combined with a visit to Virginia's wine country.

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for the recommendation!

J. L. Bell said...

Another aspect of the new interpretation at Montpelier is the construction of a log cabin to represent the slave quarters. Here’s a blog about that project.