Monday, November 19, 2007

Ellsworth Goes to Montpelier

Last week I went on a research field trip with The Writer.

Where? To Tara in Gone With the Wind? Tell The Writer somebody already wrote that book.

No, silly. We went to Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison. James Madison was the fourth president and is known as the Father of the Constitution because he was the main architect of that document. His wife Dolley is known as the first First Lady. They lived in Orange County, Virginia, on a 5000 acre estate. At first the house was really small. Then they added on to it. And then added on to it again until the house had 22 rooms. I'm standing on the front porch by one of the columns. The yellow door with its fanlight and sidelights is called the "Presidential Door."

What's this got to do with the price of tea in China?

The Writer is starting a new Time Spies book in a few weeks. I can't say what it's about, but we went to Montpelier because The Writer needed to find out something for the story. If you don't mind, I'll continue with my own story. Anyway, after Dolley Madison sold Montpelier in 1844 (James Madison had already died), the next several owners began making changes. They covered the brick with pink stucco. They changed the staircase. Stuff like that.

In 1901, William duPont bought Montpelier. He made a lot of changes--added rooms and wings until there were 55 rooms when he was done. The house looked very little like the house the Madisons built. Montpelier stayed in the duPont family until the last owner died in the 1980s.
I'll tell you about her tomorrow. She did something really cool!

I still think this entry should be called "Ellsworth Goes to Tara."

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