Restoration puts James Madison back into Montpelier

The pristine 2,650 acres that surround Montpelier, including virgin forest, formal gardens and paddocks occupied by retired racehorses, have for years been put to public use. Picnicking is encouraged. Civil War re-enactors set up camp annually. (An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 South Carolina soldiers wintered here in 1863-64.) And it's also the venue for a hunt race in November and a wine festival in May.

Elsewhere at Montpelier, plans call for eventually converting the train depot, where the Jim Crow-era signage designating "White" and "Colored" areas still hang, as a museum chronicling the African-American experience from slavery to the Civil Rights movement.

House tours have been underway since 1987 and in recent times have focused on the architecture and archaeology of the ongoing restoration.

As longtime interpreter Jayne Blair notes, "We'd say, 'This is Madison's house,' but it was really the duPont story. All the visitors were seeing was the (exterior) pink stucco and they were confused. They didn't feel Madison and they didn't feel the duPonts.

"Now, all of a sudden the spirit is in the house again. The Madisons have come alive."

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