One of the things I did with my daughter this summer was is called the Presidential Tour. We headed for the center of the state, and visited the homes of former presidents Madison, Monroe and Jefferson. My daughter never got to make the trip in school, and I felt it important for her to see these places.
I’ve been a few times to Monticello over the years, not only as a tourist, but when I did a project for their archaeology department. I have seen the site grow to now include a big tourist center and gift shop (the gift shop, the last time I was there, was in the administrative office building). Now, too, there is an option to tour the upper floors of the house. These used to house administrative offices as well, and have been restored to period standards. The tour was amazing. To actually traverse the very steep and narrow steps, as well as stand in the dome room was something I had long wanted to do.
The biggest change of the three sites, though, was the change in Montpelier (Madison). When I was there last, it was still in private hands. Now it is in the hands of a foundation, and the changes made to the building by the duPonts stripped away and the house restored to what it would have been during Madison’s retirement. Instead of a couple of rooms on the first floor, most of the house was open, and restoration will be complete in two years.
I expect Monroe’s house to undergo a similar shift soon. A few months ago they found the original foundation lines of the house. The house burned, and another house placed on top of it.
The trip also included a stop at the UVA campus, where my daughter got to see first hand the bustle of a college campus. We spent some time in the gift store, walked around the old part of the campus, and at her request, left quickly.
One thing I had never done, though, that we did this time, was to eat at the Michie tavern. You can still eat in the original dining room, being served quantities of southern food, all of which is delicious.
Historic sites such as these are things that I love about my adopted state. We didn’t have this kind of history in Wisconsin, and it is amazing to me to walk the grounds that once were certainly traversed by great men. (In Wisconsin, while there are many wonderful things, the fluidity of the population leaves doubts as to where things truly happened)