An American political scholar and leader whose tireless efforts resulted in the establishment of the longest-standing representative government in the world, James Madison is often cited as the Father of the Constitution and the Architect of the Bill of Rights of the United States. Madison served as Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson where he oversaw the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States and the Lewis and Clark expeditions sent to explore the newly-acquired lands. As the fourth President of the United States, Madison led the nation in a 'second war of independence' against Great Britain in 1812.

james madisons montpelier blue ridge view

James Madison's sister Nelly lived at Belle Grove Plantation in the Shenandoah Valley on the other side of the Blue Ridge visible from Montpelier's front porch.

In 1794, while serving as a Member of Congress, Madison was smitten by a charming and vivacious young widow. The two were wed within a few months and honeymooned at Madison's sister's home at Belle Grove Plantation. Madison's wife Dolley became the first 'First Lady' of the United States during Madison's Presidency as she defined a new role shaping the social and cultural scene of the nation's capital in Washington D.C. After Madison's Presidency, Dolley was at her husband's side for the remainder of his life editing his papers and entertaining the steady stream of visitors to Montpelier. Few letters exist between the couple during their 42 years of marriage because they were rarely apart.

james madisons montpelier cellar kitchen

The Cellar Kitchen at Montpelier commemorates the legendary hospitality of America's first 'First Lady' Dolley Madison. The exhibit includes Madison-era dining and household artifacts.

A National Trust for Historic Preservation site, James Madison's Montpelier hosts seasonal family-friendly events and activities and offers guided tours of the home and self-guided tours of the grounds and gardens. The guided tours include The Signature Tour that shares the world of James and Dolley Madison and their legacy. Montpelier also offers in depth, themed tours such as Madison and the Constitution, Slavery at Montpelier, and Dolley Madison and the Women of Montpelier. The self-guided walking tour includes the Cellar Kitchen, South Yard, Dupont Formal Garden, Landmark Forest, Archaeology Lab, Madison Family Cemetery and Slave Cemetery.

Montpelier also offers the Journey from Slavery to Freedom Trail. This self-guided walk takes visitors on a tour of Montpelier's African American history. Seven generations of more than 300 African Americans lived and worked in slavery at Montpelier. The tour begins at the Mansion and passes by the South Yard, Stable Quarter, Slave Cemetery, 1910 Train Depot and the Gilmore Cabin.

Montpelier is an active archeology site and is home to an Archeology Lab. Numerous Madison-era artifacts have been unearthed on the property, and some are on display at the Cellar Kitchen and Slavery at Montpelier exhibits. The Landmark Forest at Montpelier is an old growth forest of towering centenarian tulip, poplar, oak and hickory trees. A viewing deck in the forest offers wheelchair access. The well-marked trails include the .2 mile level and fairly easy Turkey Foot Loop and the hilly .5 mile Poplar Run Loop. In all, 1.5 miles of trails wind through the forest.

james madisons landmark forest james madisons montpelier garden gate

Visitors can hike the Landmark Forest and enjoy the gardens at Montpelier. The Landmark Forest is an old growth forest, and the terraced gardens feature a wrought iron gate and boxwood allee.

Additional exhibits at Montpelier include the 1910 Train Depot exhibit In the Time of Segregation that offers stark testimony to the separate, but not equal, legalized segregation that existed in the United States, as well as the Gilmore Cabin, the first preserved and interpreted freedman's home in the United States. The Gilmore Farm Trail passes by Confederate archaeological sites and a recreated encampment. Born enslaved at Montpelier, George and Polly Gilmore built their cabin after the Civil War with wood salvaged from the original Confederate encampments. The South Yard Domestic Slave Community at Montpelier was home to around 30 enslaved men, women and children who served the Madisons and their numerous house guests and is now an active archaeology site that is open to the public.

James Madison's Montpelier features a visitor center with a museum shop, a theater with an orientation film, rotating exhibit galleries, and a cafe serving sandwiches, snacks and beverages.

Pictured at the very top: James Madison's Montpelier is open daily to the public for guided tours of the home and self-guided tours of the grounds, gardens and Landmark Forest.

james madisons montpelier stable quarter

The stable quarter and the recreated South Yard Domestic Slave Community at Montpelier interpret the lives of the dozen or so enslaved domestic servants that served the Madison family.

james madisons montpelier childrens getaway

The Slave Cemetery contains the unmarked graves of Montpelier's enslaved servants and workers.

james madisons montpelier gravesite monuments

James and Dolley Madison are buried in the family cemetery at Montpelier.