Sunday, November 12, 2006

Touring Constitution Highway

Quick quiz:
Which of our Founding Fathers lived on the edge of civilization, supported his wife's deadbeat son, has one of the East Coast's central party schools named after him, was 5'2 (his wife was taller then him!) and lived the longest(ripe old 86, baby)?

Our very own James Madison.
Contrary to popular belief, Mr. Madison was not some rich, stuckup snob- he was truly a man of the people. He even lived in a doublewide, and that's the very first Port-A-Potty on the side:

(sorry, the sign just cracked me up-like that doublewide was actually his mansion!)

After work yesterday, my boyfriend and I went over to Montpelier, you want to talk about the edge of civilization- it still is. Took an hour to get there from the city limits, 2.5 hours total. I think its on the opposite side of the city from Monticello-despite him and Thomas Jefferson being such good buddies. Probably took a day's journey by horseback, back in those days.
Montpelier is still in restoration mode, it won't be finished until 2009. It really wasn't very picturesque, but it was cool, nonetheless. After James Madison died, his wife sold it, moved to DC + then she died 13 years later. And in 1903, the Duponts bought it, added about a zillion rooms, a racetrack + a train station+ tracks(yes, seriously, some people have more money then they know what to do with). So the restoration society decided to tear down all the additions, etc. (that the Duponts did) to make it truly authentic. Inside the house, you can still see little bits of wallpaper from the Dupont days, along with the Madison whitewashed bricks. As they tear the Dupont add-ons down, they have to be careful that they aren't tearing away Madison stuff because the Duponts were big recyclers and reused everything.
Some things, though, stood the test of time:

James Madison's "Temple".
(no,I'm not the blond)

Underneath, was an icehouse where they kept ice, and that's how Dolley could serve ice cream in the summertime. It also kept the upper area cool in the summertime, James Madison used it as a study sometimes.

The former ice hole:

Cedar of Lebanon trees:(from both the Madison + Dupont days)

They are really, really tall! One of the tallest, if not the tallest, trees I have ever seen.

One of the things that duly impressed me, was Mr. Madison was just 25 when he went to the Continental Congress. And he was the only one to remember to write down everything that went on in that room, posterity can thank him for setting the record straight.

I'm sure you're all wondering just HOW Mr. Madison finally died. During his last days, as he was pretty stiff and sore from arthritis and getting progressively weaker, his doctor(who had also been the former physician of Thomas Jefferson) offered him a stimulant so he could live a little longer and die in style on July 4.
(a popular dying date, back then) His family refused though. One morning, as he was eating breakfast in his study, he started to choke. His niece asked him what was wrong, he sat up straight, looked at her and said clearly + strongly,"Just a change of mind, my dear" and then slumped over the table and died. He must not have died from choking, he must have died from whatever it triggured... he was 86, and had been weak/ailing for quite some time.
He died on June 28, 1837. Didn't make it to the 4th.

The house under reconstruction:

And what its supposed to look like. (Scale model)

The weather was perfect,and the return trip was MUCH shorter.(an hour, found a shortcut home)

Dinner at Golden Corral, an end to a perfect day. (Definition of "Day":11 AM-8 PM, work does not count in the above activities(I try not to remember such things)). And I got my two insulin reactions out of the way, prior to 11 AM(so that wasn't so bad). 8:30 AM, 10:00 AM, and that was that. Didn't ruin the rest of the day.

1 comment:

Minnesota Nice said...

Heidi, I just love American history (although I did not know the answer to your question.)
I once worked as an interpreter for a living history village, but did not take well to wearing a corset during the 90 degree summer.