Sunday, July 01, 2012

Waynesboro, VA & Montpelier

7/1/12 Today we are still at the Elks Lodge in Waynesboro, VA but tomorrow we will head north to Lancaster, PA. Elaine’s sister Georgeanne, has 2 adult kids who live there and one of them, Chris, will be getting married on Saturday. So we will celebrate the 4th and the wedding with all the family gathering there. The wedding will actually be in Gettysburg, where we will park on the property of Gerry and Karen Deighton, cruise friends who hosted us 3 years ago when we were in this area. Because we had been in this are before, and visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, we decided to visit Montpelier this time. This was the lifelong home of James Madison, our 4th president, and his wife, Dolley. To get there, we had to drive through about 40 miles of green, rolling and wooded hills. There are also lots of farms, wineyards and wineries in this part of Virginia. Just before the entrance to the estate, right on the highway was this sign about Dolley Madison:
Then we entered and paid $18pp for our tickets, because this is run by the National Trust. Driving up to the Visitor’s Center, we passed a race track for horses, and lots of horse corrals. These were from the time when Marion Dupont owned the home; she was a fanatical horse woman. Right away, in the Visitor’s Center, you see mannequins wearing some of the outfits that Dolley Madison would have worn:
They were made for the PBS documentary about her life. She came from a Quaker background, yet in decorating the house, in some of her outfits, and becoming the premier hostess in Washington DC, none of the austerity you would expect from her background is in evidence. After a short film about the property, we walked over to the actual home. Here is the front:
It was expanded and changed somewhat when the Dupont family acquired it from the Madisons, but when the National Trust took over, and got $25 million in private donations, they changed it back to the way it was when the Madisons lived here after his presidency. Parts of it are still in process, such as the slave quarters which used to be on the back, side lawn. Of course, when we were touring the home, we were not allowed to take photographs. The home was actually a duplex ; his parents lived in one side, and he and his family lived in the other. There were even 2 kitchens in the basement, one for his mother and one for Dolley. Here are some pictures of Dolley’s kitchen:
She was renown for the good food served at her table and parties. And it was not uncommon for about 90-100 people to attend their backyard barbeques in the summer. The house tour ended upstairs, where we were taken out on one of the balconies which overlooked the front grounds
and the side back lawn where the smokehouses and slave cabins used to be located.
There was an information board showing what these buildings will eventually look like:
Some of the upstairs rooms have informational boards about the war of 1812 and Madison’s role in it, some displays about messages sent in code, and we watched a video about Madison’s role in authoring the Constitution. This is what he is most famous for, and why he should be revered. He studied past governments of every type, and past philosophers views on government, and wrote the Virginia plan which he took to the Constitutional convention. Then, as one of the writers of The Federalist, he helped inspire American citizens to support and ratify the Constitution. He subsequently served in Congress and introduced The Bill of Rights, and worked for its passage. As president, he guided the new nation through its first war (1812), thus demonstrating that a constitutional government could survive a national crisis. He was also the only sitting president in history who actually went off to fight personally in the battles. His wife, Dolley, was the one who defined the role of “First Lady”, and she also, famously, saved the portrait of George Washington when the British forces made it to Washington and burned the White House. But the paradox is that in all his thinking and planning in writing the Virginia plan, which mostly took place in this “temple” on the grounds,
and which eventually became the basis for the constitution, and trying to make everything fair and balanced for the people, including the common man, he owned about 100 slaves. Most of the “founding fathers” had been for their entire lives, men of means, which meant that they and their fathers before them, owned slaves. In order to keep the loose union of colonies together, they kind of made a “gentlemen’s agreement” not to address the issue of slavery. It was something unsettling he had to live with for the rest of his life. Then we went out to explore the grounds. Here is a picture of the back of the house:
Right outside was a bench with a sculpture of James and Dolley, so we posed with them:
Then we walked down to the extensive walled garden, which had paths bordered by hedges, and lots of flowers.
There was also an area of old growth forest which had been preserved, with walking trails, and as we were walking and appreciating the tall trees which probably were alive during Madison’s time, a spotted fawn ran right in front of us! Back at the Visitors Center, there is a gallery dedicated to William Dupont, who purchased the estate from the Madison family. He was the father of Marion Dupont Scott, who eventually inherited it and then donated it to the National Trust upon her death. Two of the rooms that were in the house when the Dupont’s lived there had been moved to this gallery. Here is Marion Dupont’s favorite room, the Art Deco room from the 1960’s:
This room is covered with pictures of Marion and her horses, and also one of her husband, Randolph Scott. And the dining room:
Also on this property is The Gilmore Cabin, which is the first preserved freedman’s home in the US. George and Polly Gilmore were slaves who eventually became free after the Civil War. They went on to own their own home and property, which had been purchased from the great nephew of James Madison. It was restored and opened to the public in 2005 by the National Trust. Unfortunately, it is only open to the public on the weekends, so we didn’t get to see it. When we crossed into Virginia a few days ago, we stopped at the Visitors Center where we picked up a winery map. The lady there said her son worked at a winery so she called him and got a recommendation of which winery we should visit and which were the best wines. He recommended Barboursville, located near Montpelier, so that was our next stop.
They charge $5 for a tasting but you get to keep the glass and also taste all 16-20 of their wines. Here is their tasting room:
The wines were pretty good, especially the cabernet franc which had been recommended, and the pinot gregio, but we didn’t think they were as good as California wines (do you think we are prejudiced?!). We were very surprised by how busy this place was on a weekday afternoon! The past few days we have been doing some rig cleaning and projects and catching up on internet stuff. Everyday we try to do a long walk. Waynesboro has a very nice park with a Serenity Garden, where we took this picture of a cute couple on a park bench:
Friday was a very hot day, and as we were sitting around after dinner, a huge wind came up and we started to see lightning. We quickly closed our slides, so that the slide awning covers wouldn’t get ripped off. Then the power went out. We switched to our inverter and put on the local TV news and saw that there was a severe weather warning for a huge area extending 800 miles across from Indiana to Virginia and Washington DC. The wild winds continued and we were worried about a tornado, so we decided to drive down to the nearby WalMart which would be a sturdy building to hunker down in. The Elks Lodge right next to us closed up as soon as the power went off. On the way to WalMart, all the stop lights weren’t working either, and when we got to WalMart, it was dark and closed too. The power was off everywhere. Finally the winds died down, the rain wasn’t too heavy, and we returned to our rig. The next day the power was still off. We went for a walk in the park and in driving over there, saw downed trees nearly everywhere. Lots of them must have hit power lines. Here is a picture of one of the trees near the Serenity Garden in the park:
The park itself was also closed because downed trees were blocking the drive in. The power stayed off all day yesterday, but came on again in the middle of the night. So we have our A/C on today, but clouds are gathering and it looks like we could have another round of violent thunderstorms today or tonight.

1 comment:

CaliforniaGrammy said...

What an eventful post . . . beautiful historic places, carrying wine as you take a stroll, lightning storm, big winds knocking down trees . . . life is good!

Have a great time with family at the upcoming wedding.