(Where Gumbo was #305)
Gumbo was visiting the historic presidential estate of Montpelier. Congratulations to PortMoresby, the only one who recognized where Gumbo was.
A visit to Montpelier is an all day event. There is just so much to see and hear. Montpelier is located off of Route 20 (Constitution Highway) approximately 92 miles (148 km) from Washington DC. The day I arrived, the entrance gate was unmanned so after taking a few photos I proceeded down the drive and noticed a number of white tents set up on the property to the left side, announcing “Montpelier Hunt Races.” I later learned about the horse race events held there and was told to visit the race web site for dates and tickets. I’ve never been to a traditional horse race billed for “Gentlemen and Ladies” but I might have to make an exception and attend in the coming years, of course with an exclusive report on TravelGumbo.
Proceeding down the drive, you get the first glimpse of the main house before turning right towards the visitor’s center and parking area. Walking toward the visitors center is a bronze statue of James and Dolly Madison. After a little of further investigation, I learned just how much Dolley Madison influenced Washington DC society and matters of state. That is another story to be told.
A short walk to the mansion took me by a number of busy archeologists working under the tents in the hot sun. A common sight in Virginia to uncover relics of the past for eventual public view.
Once arriving at the mansion, visitors like me loitered on the porch before a guide corraled us into the first interior room and took us on a historic journey that was unbelievably enlightening. The guide was exceptionally informative and the tour was well worth the price. Photos were prohibited inside the mansion. I enjoyed the story of the deadbeat son of Dolley’s prior marriage who eventually bankrupted her, but James Madison financed him as his own because he loved his wife, who could not see her son’s failures as many mothers are prone to do.
After exiting the rear of the mansion, there is an entrance to the “Distinction of Colours” exhibit which highlights the lives of slaves on the Montpelier plantation.
There are also eight miles of hiking trails, an education center, a stable and craft complex. Behind the mansion are iron gates and brick walls, then a garden of flowers and sculptures.
Heading back to the parking area in front of the visitor’s center, there are more attractions. There are two cemeteries, the Madison’s and the slaves.
You may notice that the location of this historic place may be listed as Montpelier Station. Back in the day a railroad station was constructed in front of the Montpelier plantation and it is still in operation today. I took a little turn off Constitution Highway to take a look. Besides being an operable station, it is also a museum depicting the separation of whites and blacks.
President James Madison overcame so many health issues to become such an enlightened man of many languages and thoughts of human rights and democracy that I wanted to learn more and visited his museum in another town which I will share in a future Travel Gumbo blog. Stay tuned.
The exact address of Montpelier is 11350 Constitution Highway, Montpelier Station, Virginia 22957 and is normally opened from 9AM to 5PM daily. The normal charge is $20 though you can look online for children and senior/military discounts.