James and Dolley Madison’s Montpelier was the lifelong home of America’s fourth president, James Madison. Located in the rolling hills of Virginia’s Piedmont, and originally built around 1760 by Madison’s father, Montpelier went through three construction phases during James Madison’s lifetime. As you would expect with any 250 year old structure, many demands were placed on the wood floors of Montpelier. Total square footage for the two levels is in excess of 6000 square feet. All additions and re-configurations since the Madison’s occupancy have been removed. Rooms have been reconfigured to the 1809 construction. For a 250 year old floor, the wood was in remarkably good condition.
The antique pine floors had never been sanded and had accumulated almost 250 years of coatings, paints and drying oils.
Coatings had aged to the point that the original wood species was unidentifiable.
Because the floors had never been sanded 45 degree planing marks were clearly visible in the master bedroom.
Initial sampling confirmed that Passive Refinishing® would thoroughly remove the old coatings without sanding, leaving the original wood intact.
Layers of old finish were removed from both floors of the historic structure and the wood retained its natural patina.
Face nail patterns became visible and “shadows” left over from walls being moved were preserved.
In the second floor study where Madison was known to have written much of The Virginia Plan, ink stains were revealed as old, darkened coatings were removed.
In the first floor study where Madison reviewed his papers after his presidency, more ink stains were found.
Eventually, the restored floors that emerged were appropriate for a house more than 200 years old that had witnessed history in the making.
The floors you can see today at Montpelier would be readily familiar to James and Dolley Madison. We encourage you to plan a visit soon so that you can be a part of one of America’s premier restoration projects. View Montpelier’s website here.
View the pdf file of this restoration here.