Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Old houses often have interesting lives, just like people.
A house can't have a life. It's not alive.
I think houses are alive, in a way, as long as people live in them. Anyway, the home of James and Dolley Madison, Montpelier, had several lives after the Madisons were gone. But in 1901, the house was purchased by William duPont, of the famous duPont family. He made a lot of changes, like I said yesterday. His two children, Marion and Willie, roamed the 3000 acre estate, helping with sheep shearing and milking. And riding horses. Marion loved horses. See, Winchester, there is a horse connection to The Writer's new book, Horses in the Wind.
Then how come there is a picture of you sitting by an old fireplace?
I'm getting to that. Marion grew loving horses more than anything. She was a strong-minded girl who rode astride at a horse show in Madison Square Garden. In 1915, girls were supposed to ride sidesaddle. When she grew up, she stayed at Montpelier, which became one of the most important horse-training centers in the country. She married a movie star, Randolph Scott. And she started the famous Montpelier races, which has steeplechase and flat track racing every November. The Writer went once. It was very exciting!
When Marion died in 1983, she left Montpelier to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She wanted the house returned to the way it looked when the Madisons lived there. Her father had saved doors, windows, fireplace mantles, storing them in barns and attics. He even saved a section of the original roof so it could be redone exactly the way it was originally.
I'm sitting by one of the Madison fireplaces that had been covered up for 150 years. Those are really old ashes next to me--maybe as old as 1844.
Awww. Poor little Ella-Cinders.
You're just jealous because you never go anywhere cool. The Writer and I will go back to Montpelier in 2008, when all the renovations will be finished.