Montpelier, VA – “Architect of the Constitution”

October 23, 2009

Montpelier, VA - Home of James and Dolley Madison

Montpelier, VA - Home of James and Dolley Madison

Driving through the beautiful Virginia countryside up Rte 20 on our way to Montpelier, I’ll confess, my “vast” knowledge of history hadn’t quite come to grips with the singular effect that Mr. James Madison had. This man sequestered himself for several months, studying intently historical governments of the past, what worked, what didn’t, what succeeded, what failed, and in the process, he crafted what began as “The Virginia Plan,” which, after much finagling and cajoling of colleagues in the Continental Congress, went on to become the Constitution of the United States. This man advocated a Federalized Union yet still providing States’ Rights, tricameral government with an inherent system of checks and balances, basically setting up a set of rules by which our country has been run quite successfully since 1789, what is that, 220 years? Just amazing, amazing. James and his wife Dolley came to live in this Montpelier mansion (shown above), much of it reflects the style of Jeffersonian architecture. Another interesting story is that Dolley was asked by Jefferson, a widower, to be his White House hostess while he was President, thus making Dolley the first “First Lady” of Washington, beginning in 1801, 8 years before her own husband took office in 1809. Montpelier is quite an impressive sight to see; for awhile it was owned by the DuPonts, who totally changed its appearance by stuccoing the red brick exterior, among other things. Restoration of Montpelier is continuing to this day and beyond; as you’ll see in our gallery, lots of archeological digs are still in progress, trying to delicately reconstruct a vital era of American History.

The Barberville Winery, Barberville, VA

The Barboursville Winery, Barboursville, VA

A Campus Church at UVA, Charlottesville

A Campus Church at UVA, Charlottesville

On the way back from Montpelier, we stopped in at the Barboursville Winery, wanting to sample some fine Virginia wines (What? Wine in Virginia?) We enjoyed what we sampled enough to cram a few bottles of wine into our already-cramped Prius, worth bringing home, for sure!

Next morning we decided to look around Charlottesville a bit before leaving town; that church to the left is but one example of a lot of beautiful campus scenery, almost making us nostalgic enough to long for those old student days? But not quite. đŸ™‚
After leaving Charlottesville for the last time, having bid good-bye to our friends Peter and Barbara, we headed over to Lexington, VA, the site of 2 universities: Virginia Military Institute, and Washington and Lee. Below is a shot of the Robert E. Lee church on the W&L campus. I wondered what denomination it represented, but apparently none is committed, possibly due to there being a prostrate statue of Robert E. Lee behind the pulpit? Clearly I’m not an expert on religious matters!
Robert E. Lee Church at Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA

Robert E. Lee Church at Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA

We also viewed the VMI grounds, with several military-looking people marching around, addressing me as “sir,” (must be my grey hair?). I rather thought the buildings of VMI looked kind of like prison buildings, with very stark looking architecture, and minimal landscaping around, unlike the beautifully verdant W&L campus. You can see a few more campus views in the gallery, of course.
After Lexington, we gassed up (yes, a Prius uses gas), and headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, roughly parallel to the Appalachian Trail, witness this photo:
The Appalachian Trail at the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

The Appalachian Trail at the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Jane wouldn’t let me go hiking on it by myself, for some reason? We drove on trying to find a cool place for a sunset shot, meaning we had to be heading South, and find a turnout just at sundown, AND, the sky had to cooperate. Here’s the best we could do:

Shenandoah Valley Sunset from Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Shenandoah Valley Sunset from Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia

Nomads that we are, we didn’t have a definite stopping point for the night, but lucked out and found a cheapie right near the Parkway in a little village by the name of “Meadows of Dan.” We were encouraged to go to the Mountain View restaurant in Dan for our culinary satisfaction, and though the food was (just barely) edible, what would you think of a place that offered Jello Salad as a vegetable option? Downhill from there. ;-(
We spent most of the next day on the Parkway, ending up in Asheville, NC, for two nights. Next blog entry will yield important details, don’t miss it! As usual, see our gallery for many other photos, and scroll all the way to the bottom of this page to subscribe yourself for e-mail updates on this Blogazzette, OK?
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2 Responses to “Montpelier, VA – “Architect of the Constitution””

  1. Don McDonald said

    Nice to see the green barns near Montpieler. In fact, nice to see the entire album. Don

    • Hey Don, those green barns are part and parcel of the local Horse country around Montpelier. In fact, the DuPonts set up a big thoroughbred training track & stable system there near the Mansion, and it’s still used for that today.

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