Montpelier claims it's turned the corner

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Since 2003 scores of skilled craftsmen and artisans from across the country have diligently worked at James Madison’s Montpelier to return the last unrestored home of a founding father to the American people.

Now in its final stretch, the $24 million restoration project is garnering the attention of history buffs and preservationists alike. Year-to-date figures show visitation to the Madison home is more than 50 percent over 2007. Since January, more than 6,500 tourists have visited the Montpelier estate located in the rolling foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

“The response to this project has been absolutely overwhelming,” said Michael C. Quinn, president of The Montpelier Foundation, whose organization is overseeing the project as well as planning a Restoration Celebration on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, 2008.

Hailed as the most significant restoration of our generation, Montpelier has set new standards of authenticity and accuracy in the field of preservation.

“For visitors, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Quinn. “Never again will we be able to witness what lies beneath — from the original roof line buried within a plaster wall, to the Madison-era paint hidden behind a piece of molding. This project has been about as close as you can get to the man whose genius created and helped establish our democratic government.”

In response to the upcoming travel season, Montpelier has lengthened its hours of operation from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. These extended hours will run daily April through October. Four new features are also on tap during the warmer months, and will run in addition to the daily guided restoration tours and self-tours of the Montpelier garden, the James Madison Landmark Forest, and the estate’s 2,650-acre landscape. These include a Hands-on Restoration Tent, the Gilmore Cabin: A Freedman’s Farm, The Montpelier Enslaved Community Tour, and the Garden and Grounds Tour.

Admission to Montpelier and its various tours is $12 for adults, $6 for children 6-14 years, and children under 6 years are free. There is no charge for the “Friends of Montpelier,” and National Trust members are admitted at half-price.

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