Montpelier, James Madison
If James Madison is one of the most underrated of our nation’s founders, then Montpelier is the most underrated of founding father’s presidential plantations. The architecture is simple but classically beautiful, the grounds are well maintained, quiet, and green (and most importantly, not overrun with tourists), and the property itself has an interesting history. After years of legendary hospitality to some of the young nation’s most prominent citizens, Dolly Madison was forced to sell Montpelier to cover her son’s considerable debts. The property passed through many hands before the National Trust for Historic Preservation restored it back to its original form.
James Madison is often overshadowed by his fellow founding fathers, so perhaps the best reason to visit Montpelier is to learn more about the man who was an integral architect of the American government, and the best part, by far, is its library — looking at the collection of books he read while brainstorming the formation of the new United States government is inspiring.
Local tip: Go the first weekend of May and stay for the Montpelier Wine Festival. It hosts 25 different Virginia wineries. Get a little drunk, and run around the grounds yelling about the difference between a democracy and a democratic republic.
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