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The family willed Montpelier to a foundation that opened the house to the public in 1987 and completed a full, meticulous architectural restoration in 2008.Today, the Georgian-style mansion looks much as it did when the Madisons lived there, with gorgeous plasterwork, woodwork, floors and finishes that match the originals as closely as possible.Montpelier James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution and the president who guided the country into and out of the War of 1812, wasn't even the most interesting person to live on the Montpelier plantation.

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Among the many special tours available is one that highlights the lives of the enslaved African-Americans on Mulberry Row - the row of dwellings, workshops, sheds and gardens where the physical work of Monticello was performed day in and day out.

Visitors can also take a special walking tour of the plots where Jefferson, an avid gardener and amateur botanist, experimented with seeds and plants, including some brought back by the Lewis & Clark expedition.

Monroe, who was so popular during his presidency that he ran unopposed for re-election, had hoped to retire here, but financial problems forced him to sell in 1828. Monticello had more than 30; Montpelier, more than 20.

Today, Ash Lawn-Highland is owned and operated by Monroe's alma mater, the College of William & Mary.

The 2,650-acre grounds are just as beautiful, with some of the biggest walnut trees I've ever seen.

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