Saturday, June 28, 2008

James Madison, His Estate and Marine Corps Connection

The most exciting thing for me on my recent visit to Montpelier, the estate of the 4th President of the United States, was that I could see a historic home being restored to its original state.  You can check out the Restoration Blog here.

Restoring Montpelier to the way it was when James Madison and his wife Dolley lived there was not easy feat.  The Estate had been purchased in the early 1900s by the DuPont family and they proceeded to add two additional wings as well as second floors over the existing wings of the Madison home.  In the picture below, you can part of what remains of the DuPont addition and that is just a small part of what was there.  This DuPont remnant is used as a carpentry shop. 

You can see a video and photos of what the home looked like as the Madison's added to it and what it looked like as they demolished the DuPont additions here.


When the home was originally built by James Madison's father, it consisted of half of what you see (the right half).  After James married Dolley, he built a mirror image half to the left.  The center door was not there while the two Madison families were in residence.  So, yes, it was a duplex.  After the deaths of Jame's parents he created a central hall, connected the two sides from inside and inserted the central front door.


Below is a side and back view of the house.

DSCN7307 DSCN7310

Since this is on the National Historical registry, I couldn't take photos inside to show you what they were doing.  However, their blog shows you the steps they've been taking to bring the home back to its original 1830 grandeur.

Amazingly, many of the original panels, doors, windows and mantels had been recycled by the DuPonts in other parts of the house so they have truly been able to restore it to its original condition.  What they didn't have originally, for instance marble from one of the fire places, they were able to find the quarry in England where the marble was quarried and even the same vein from which is was cut to get a replacement.  They had a lot of lucky things like that fall in place for them.

Ok, now for the Marine Corps connection.  That tree, that's it.


Its a Cedar of Lebanon and the Marines brought it back from their mission against the Barbary Pirates and presented it to James Madison as a gift.  At the time, when the Marines led by Lt. Presley O'Bannon were sent to free US ships captured by the pirates, Madison was the Secretary of State.  Apparently, he recommended the Marines be sent - - they were after all, the Delta Force of the day. 


Mark A. Trickett said...

Hi there. I was just wondering if there is any documentary evidence with regards to the provenience of the Cedar of Lebanon? There are two on the Montpelier property (the other is outside of the duPont formal garden) and since you were very specific...? Well, I just thought that I would ask. Currently the docents report that three Cedars of Lebanon were brought to Madison as a gift from Lafayette, and the two trees are the survivors of those three. It would be great to have confirmation so that they can tell the correct story.

There's another reason that I'm asking. Not 30 feet from the Cedar of Lebanon that you posted, what appears to be a USMC button was found. You can find an image of it here, but do you have a date for the button? Its context suggests early 19th century, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find a button quite like this one.

Regards... Mark A. Trickett

Mark A. Trickett said...

Strike that about the USMC button. It's a Navy 1-piece and the file has been modified to reflect this.

I would still be interested in any documentation on the Cedar of Lebabnon, though.

Regards... Mark A. Trickett

RangersGirl said...

I don't know if there is any documentary evidence, I thought I heard our docent say they were gifts of the Marines who held Madison in high esteem. I will ask the historians at the National Museum of the Marine Corps and see what they might know. I tried to do some checking of the facts before posting, but my time is limited. I'll see what I can find out and then I'll report back.

Mark A. Trickett said...

Hey, thanks. Much appreciated. Given the annual visit by the USMC to Montpelier, I just thought that it would be great to lay this one to bed, as it were. I have heard others report that the docents give different stories about that particular Cedar of Lebanon so, again, it would be great if there were something.

As to the time. I can empathise with that, so I hope that you don't take the interest in the answer to the question as some form of criticism. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to reply to me.


RangersGirl said...

I posted the question about the Cedar to a historian at the museum. His response was since the Barbary pirates were in North Africa - - no where near Lebanon, the trees being presented by Marines for that mission was very unlikely. So a gift from Lafayette makes sense.

I also asked him why the Marines hold James Madison in such high esteem - - he said he's heard "lore" of what is behind this but will do some looking into the facts behind it and get back to me sometime. What do you guys have regarding the reason for the Marines annual visit?