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Photographer: Kelbert McFarland Photography

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Belle Grove Plantation & Montpelier

James Madison is our fifth president to cover on our blog, but was the fourth president- we covered the family homes of Lincoln on his birthday and it inspired this series! As we have mentioned before, you will usually be able to tell by someone's last name whether you can trace their lineage back very far very easily and names like Madison which indicate status as a commoner (often end in "son" or "s" like John Adams). This means their family was not considered important enough to document in British history but the Madison family rose to immediate prominence after coming to the colonies. James Madison's great-great-great grandfather was Captain Isaac Madison who came to Virginia from London. The family became planters- John Madison Sr. and Jr. were major landowners. Jr.'s son, Ambrose Madison, was our president's grandfather and the one to develop Mount Pleasant AKA Montpelier. This is where James Madison Sr. was born. The president, James Madison Jr., was born at his mother's family estate, Belle Grove Plantation. We will look at both of these houses, although Belle Grove is not the original structure the president was born to. The following pictures and info are from the Belle Grove Plantation website. For a fun interpretation on the plantation we suggest the History Goes Bump podcast from which we learned about possible hauntings at the house.


The limestone exterior was built to show the social status and wealth of the home owners. It is thought that Thomas Jefferson influenced the architecture of this house as with many others in the Shenandoah Valley.

The interiors are in between the Georgian and Federal styles, my personal favorite in design. Below are some pictures of various rooms.




Montpelier is more well known and the place James lived with Dolley Madison. We love Dolley as she famously saved some of our nation's treasures from the White House as it burned including a portrait of George Washington, silver, and velvet curtains.


From Virginia.org

Below shows the expansion of the house through the Madison family and eventually the DuPonts. You can read all about it here at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Much care has been taken to see that the house is preserved as best can be to its earlier form. Below is an interior shot.


From Trip Advisor

From The Plan Collection

We have found that it is difficult to get interior shots of Montpelier and this is one historic house we have not visited! We did discover there is a candlelight Christmas tour of the plantation that would be amazing to go to. If we get the chance to go, we will update you!