The Montpelier Foundation has announced a $10 million gift from Carlyle Group co-founder David M. Rubenstein to restore the home of James and Dolley Madison in Orange, Virginia.
The gift will support archeological research as well as ongoing efforts to refurnish the mansion of the fourth president of the United States and reconstruct the South Yard, the site of slave cabins, a kitchen, and two smokehouses adjacent to the mansion. Substantially altered after it passed from Madison's family, the mansion was restored to its 1817 appearance during a multiyear project that ended in 2008, Kat Imhoff, Montpelier Foundation president and CEO, told the Washington Post. Many rooms haven't been refurnished, however, because historians aren't sure how they looked in the early 1800s. About $6.5 million of Rubenstein's gift will support research and the refurnishing of those rooms, while $3.5 million will go to archaeological and other work on the South Yard, where it is thought that about thirty "house slaves" and their families lived. Madison, although troubled by slavery, at one point owned a hundred and eighteen slaves.
Rubenstein, who has given millions in support of restoration efforts at Monticello, Mount Vernon, and other historical sites and monuments, told the Post he was struck by the story of Madison's diligence, learning, and behind-the-scenes work ethic. "He devoted himself entirely to public service," he said. "He got things done."
"We are delighted to have an opportunity to take this project to the next level," said Imhoff. "With this gift we will be able to continue refurnishing James and Dolley Madison’s home with the same degree of authenticity achieved in the architectural restoration, and by reconstructing the South Yard, we can give visitors an opportunity to learn and discuss the American paradox of slavery while putting Madison’s life at Montpelier in context."