Nelly's Best Room

James Madison's Montpelier

James Madison's Montpelier

When James Madison Sr. completed the Montpelier dwelling house in the mid-1760s, it was the largest brick home in Orange County. The double-pile Georgian house was entered through a central passage with an enclosed staircase, reflecting the influence of the Rappahannock River basin building tradition. This room we identify today as Nelly’s Best Room originally served as a dining room in the 1760s house. Following later architectural additions to the house by James and Dolley Madison ca. 1797 and ca. 1809-1812, this room and another to the rear became the apartments of widowed Nelly Conway Madison, with the front room acting as her principal parlor and sitting room. Architectural elements of the room echo period accounts provided by visitors who recalled meeting “Mother Madison.” Mary Cutts, President Madison’s niece, recalled, “His mother still lived and retaining the use of the original part of the house kept up the ancient style.” Architectural historians confirmed that the room’s original wainscot and paneling remained in place until after Dolley Madison sold Montpelier in 1844.

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  • Title: Nelly's Best Room