Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory - Virginia


Montpelier Station

Montpelier Station, Mansion, VA ( 38.220566, -78.167746)

Felling Dates: Autumn 1762, Winter 1762/3, and Spring 1763

King post strut 1762(29C); Queen strut 1762(36C); Principal rafter 1762(23C); Cellar ceiling joists 1762(29¼C, 25½C), 1761(22½C), 1745, 1740; Attic ceiling joist (0/1); Tiebeam, Dragon beam, king posts (pine 0/4).

Montpelier is the second mansion to occupy the 2,750 acre estate belonging to the Madison family. The first phase of the house, built by James Madison Sr in 1763, consists of a three-storey central block including a full basement, all in brick. The plan is traditional in form and includes 4 rooms on each floor with a central passage, a hipped roof, and interior end chimneys. Between 1797 and 1800 James Madison, Jr. extended the house to the north to provide self-contained living quarters for himself and his wife Dolley. The portico was erected on the west side unifying both parts of the house. Between 1809 and 1812, after being elected President, James Madison, Jr. extended the house with single-storey wings with unusual ridge-and-furrow felted roofs. He also constructed a rear colonnade and reorganised the interior to serve two households, with a shared, central, public block. Following Madison’s death in 1836, the house was sold and between 1844 and 1901 several subsequent owners improved the house, including rendering the exterior and carrying out internal alterations. The most radical of the alterations were ordered by William and Annie duPont in 1901, who more than doubled the size of the house. In 1983 the house was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and starting in 2001 the extensive duPont additions were demolished. The house is currently being restored to its 1820s appearance. A total of 14 timbers were sampled, 10 of oak and 4 of pine. Of the oak samples, 4 were from the attic floor and roof structure, and 6 from the basement ceiling beams and joists. All but two of the oak timbers sampled dated, and six of these had complete sapwood. These produced precise felling dates ranging from summer/autumn 1762 to spring 1763. This latest felling date was from a basement ceiling joist, suggesting that construction begun in 1763. Four samples were taken from pine roof timbers – two kingposts, a dragon beam, and a tiebeam. Most retained complete sapwood, but despite three being combined to form a 108-year chronology, it failed to date with any other pine chronologies

Miles, D W H and Worthington, M J, 2006 ‘The Tree-Ring Dating of Montpelier, Montpelier Station, Orange County, Virginia , unpubl ODL archive report 2006/19.

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Oxford Tree-Ring Laboratory

Michael Worthington
Jane Seiter, Ph.D

25 E. Montgomery St.
Baltimore, MD 21230