Montpelier: Map from 1830s aids research, excavation





With the help of an early-19th-century insurance map, archaeologists are having an easier time than usual in excavating an important historical site near Montpelier.

The researchers, including 17 students from James Madison University, are unearthing the South Yard, a residential complex where President James Madison's domestic slaves lived and worked.

The insurance map, which came to light in 2002, is proving invaluable.

"It was a perfect roadmap for us," said Jennifer Gullette, a spokeswoman for Montpelier. "The map basically gave us the site's dimensions and location from the house measured out in feet."

About one year after Madison's 1836 death, his wife, Dolley, insured the 27-room mansion and nearby outbuildings. The map detailed the location of the South Yard's two smokehouses and three residences -- each a duplex for two slave families. The slave complex also included a kitchen and a stable.

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