While the Portico was built in ca. 1797, the columns were not finished until approximately 15 years later. Evidence of the delay is found in a letter written by Sir Augustus John Foster after a visit to Montpelier in 1807. In the letter he reveals that the Portico columns were still bare brick but that they were “intended to be plastered.” Why would Madison leave the columns unfinished in ca. 1797? One theory is that, similar to other unfinished parts of the ca. 1797 addition, President Madison may not have had the time to finish the columns before he returned to Washington in ca. 1800. A letter that Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1800 also suggests that Madison did not finish the columns in ca. 1797 because he simply did not know how.
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