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When the evidence for the unfinished ca. 1797 paneling and mantels is combined with the fact that Madison left the Portico’s brick columns exposed until ca. 1812, it becomes clear that he had not finished his ca. 1797 additions when work started in ca. 1812.  Buildings often took years to complete in the 18th and 19th centuries and so it is not surprising that Madison did not finish before he was called to Washington in 1801 to serve as President Jefferson’s Secretary of State.  The long construction times were caused by limited access to materials (almost all of which were prepared by hand) and problems obtaining skilled carpenters and masons.  Furthermore, Madison’s essential and time consuming work as President Jefferson’s Secretary of State between 1801 and 1808 also helps to explain why it took over a decade to complete the architectural trim in the rooms he started building in ca. 1797.


A virtual restoration showing what the ca. 1797 Dining Room looked like between 1801 and ca. 1812.