Montpelier Offers a New Way to Learn about Something Old

By: Frankie Jupiter Email
By: Frankie Jupiter Email

July 29, 2011

A newly constructed addition to James Madison's Montpelier replicates a smokehouse that stood on the same foundation more than a century ago.

"What we're doing here at Montpelier is reconstructing the building where James Madison's slaves both worked and lived," said Mathew Reeves, an archaeologist at Montpelier.

The replica of the smokehouse will be more than just an addition for tourists, it will provide information and background on what happened on the plantation.

"Visitors when they come here, they will understand that these buildings that were here were homes for enslaved African Americans and then we begin to have a more meaningful dialogue with visitors about what James Madison's home had," said Reeves.

The new addition will bring tourists back in time, the smokehouse played a significant role in everyday life for those living at the estate. During late November and early December, the smokehouse was was used to cure and process pork for the Madison's.

"Every farm plantation has a set of smokehouses, probably one smokehouse in the case here. The insurance map shows there are two and we have archaeological evidence for two," said Reeves.

With such a tremendous historic background, those working on the estate say it is important that every detail of the reconstruction is correct.

"What we are striving for with the restoration of Montpelier is accuracy that is what we know, accuracy and authenticity," said Reeves.

Tours of Montpelier are available everyday between 9am and 5pm along with different activities such as hands on restoration as well as an archeology dig.

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