A Visit with President and Mrs. Madison

Aug. 26th 2013

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On Sunday, August 25th, Belle Grove Plantation was proud and honored to open its door to President and Mrs. Madison of Montpelier. They arrived in early afternoon and were gracious enough to allow us to do a photo session with Chamberlin Photography.


The pictures are just beautiful!

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After the photo session, they relaxed on the Riverview Balcony enjoying the sunset. Afterward it was dinner with Brett and I were we enjoyed wonderful conversations around the lives of President Madison and Mrs. Madison. We also discussed the upcoming event on September 15th. They are very excited to be returning to Belle Grove Plantation in just a few weeks again for another wonderful Virginia Fare Dinner.

We were also showered with some wonderful house warming gifts. We received several new books for our library! We received James Madison – A Biography by Ralph Ketcham from Montpelier CEO Kat Imhof.

We received from Mrs., Madison (Dr. Lynn Uzzell) two copies of the Constitutions, one hardback and one paperback, “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, “Founding Families of Virginia” DVD by Chef Walter Staib, “Montpelier Hospitality – History, Traditions and Recipes from the Home of James and Dolley Madison” and something I have been wanting for some time, a bust of James Madison.

We received from President Madison (John Douglas Hall) “The Complete Madison – His Basic Writings by Saul Padovea and Borderline in Borderlands – James Madison and the Spanish-American Frontier (1776-1821)” by J.C.A. Stagg.

Both President Madison and Mrs. Madison brought us something to “warm” the evening. Mrs. Madison brought us a bottle of Korbet Brut Champagne and President Madison brought us a bottle of Madeira.

We were just overwhelmed with all the gifts. They were unexpected but will make very wonderful additions to our library and home.

I have already started reading one, “Montpelier Hospitality” and found something that I really think frames my goal with our plantation hospitality.

“Montpelier’s most important and famous occupants were James and Dolley Madison, who presided over this “harbor of hospitality” in the early 1800s, when strangers as well as friends and neighbors were welcomed. Montpelier, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is in the heart of Virginia’s hunt country. It was the lifelong home of James Madison, fourth President, Father of the Constitution, and the founding genius of the American republic. His captivating wife, Dolley, still holds the unofficial title as the most famous hostess the White House ever had. During her lifetime, she was considered the most popular person in America. The volunteers at Montpelier because intrigued with the idea of researching Dolley’s background to discover the secrets of her entertaining success and to find the recipes she once used. After poring through old cookbooks, journals and letter in search of truly authentic recipes, we found that very few, if any, survive. Instead, we learned that Dolley’s fame as a hostess was based not so much on what she served, but the grace, charm and warmth she extended to her guests at both the President’s House (later called the White House) and Montpelier. She had the remarkable ability to make all feel welcome. Her genuine love of people was evident in her belief that neither political party nor social status was the criteria by which individuals were recognized.”

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If I could only be one tenth like Dolley Madison . . . I am sure our home would be one of the greatest successes.

This morning, President Madison rose early for a brisk walk around the grounds while Mrs., Madison enjoyed a glass of juice and a good book on the Riverview Balcony.

James and Dolley Dinner

We are so sad to see them go, but we can’t wait to share them with 12 very lucky VIP dinner guests and many more Salon guests on September 15th! It is guaranteed to be an evening you don’t want to miss!

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Posted by Michelle Darnell | in Belle Grove History, Darnell History | 14 Comments »