HISTORY HIGHLIGHTED: 6 reasons to visit Montpelier

Whether it’s time for a school field trip, a family vacation or you’re looking to bolster your knowledge of U.S. history, there are countless historic sites around the country where you can get away and learn about the nation’s foundation.

For a truly engaging experience, James Madison’s Montpelier in Or­ange County, Virginia, gives families, students and the history-inclined a way to peer into the past for a look at Founding Era life.

The home of the former President known as the “father of the Consti­tution” provides a thought-provoking educational opportunity. Visitors can learn about Madison, the process and ideals behind the Constitu­tion and tour his recently-restored home. They can also experience The Mere Distinction of Colour, an exhibition about slavery at the time our country was beginning and its legacy today.

The property has a rich history that began in 1801 when Madison inherited Montpelier. He and his wife Dolley eventually retired there when his political ca­reer came to an end after living in the White House. Madison oversaw more than 100 enslaved African-Americans at the property who worked to maintain it as a tobacco and wheat farm. Visitors are able to absorb this history through his former home, the exhibition and the 2,650-acre property by walking the grounds, participating in trail walks, wit­nessing public archaeology digs and tour­ing on-site exhibitions, among  many other reasons to visit this historical landmark.

Each year, more than 125,000 visitors trav­el to Montpelier to experience its powerful history and  picturesque landscape.   The home and grounds are open to visitors and student  groups  throughout  the  year, and attendees can take  guided tours or trek out on their own  throughout the property. Tours include Madisons’ home, which was recently restored to its Founding Era decor; lessons about the first lady; or walking tours throughout The Mere Distinction of Colour exhibition, which also includes the South Yard and former homes of the enslaved community.

The public archaeology program  at Mont­pelier, which started in the 1990s, is one of the only in the country that allows the pub­lic to participate and pulls back the curtain on the archaeological process.  The public, and even those descended  from Montpe­lier’s enslaved community, have discovered many artifacts, now on display. These trea­sures show how those enslaved people lived and give a glimpse into their lives.

Each year,  more than 125,000 visitors travel to Montpelier to experience its powerful history and picturesque landscape.

The Mere Distinction of Colour  illuminates the  struggles of  those  enslaved during the 19th century and provides visitors the chance to contemplate slavery during the Founding Era.  One of the ways the exhibi­tion does this is by featuring stories of those enslaved at Montpelier through the record­ings of living descendants. Documentary research, 17 years of archaeological excavation, oral history and cultural exploration all went into the exhibition, which is located in the cellars of the main Madison house as well as four reconstructed slave dwellings and work buildings in the South Yard.

While many  history  fans  are familiar with George  Washington’s  Mount  Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Montpelier allows for another in-depth opportunity to discover  the lives of  the country’s found­ing  presidents. The signature  tour  –  the classic, keystone experience of Montpelier – touches  on many aspects of Madison’s personaland professional life as the fourth President of the United States.

Discover Montpelier as a family with hands-on tours designed for children. They’ll be able to discover artifacts, docu­ments and paintings while learning about the house, the Madison family and the en­slaved community.

With more than eight miles of well-marked walking trails, it’s easy to get your steps in dur­ing a day at Montpelier. The multiple separate trails offer views of  the Blue Ridge Mountains as they wind through pastures,  wildflower meadows and forests. Open to the public  dur­ing business hours seven days a week, there’s always a chance of encountering native plants and wildlife on the trails.

For more infonnation, including a list of daily tours, visit Montpelier.org