James Madison Museum (Virginia)


As the birthplace of eight presidents, Virginia is one of the best places to tour Presidential sites. Many of the presidents, including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, have multiple sites you can visit. I’ve already reviewed James Madison’s home in the beautiful rolling countryside of Orange County, Montpelier, and this past Presidents’ Day weekend, I was excited to visit the James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage in the same county.


James Madison was born on the Northern Neck in eastern Virginia at Port Royal (see my review of his birthplace here). The main home associated with Madison, Montpelier, is located in the rolling hills of Orange County, once the westernmost county in Virginia. Madison is known as a Founding Father, the father of the Constitution, and for leading the country through the War of 1812. He’s also known as Dolley Madison’s husband – she had quite her own following!


The James Madison Museum of Orange County Heritage is located in the lovely town of Orange and is the first museum to honor President Madison. Its location right in the heart of the quaint downtown makes it an easy stop before or after lunch at one of the cute restaurants or in conjunction with a visit to Montpelier, just a few miles west of the museum along Constitution Highway.

The museum opened in 1976 to honor President Madison and Orange-born President Zachary Taylor. It also focuses on the history of Orange County, including the story of Native Americans and enslaved people. 

The museum is open daily and the docents are friendly and eager to show you around. They give tours to school groups so are ready to handle families with children. 

The museum is made up of four main rooms along with an annex called the Hall of Agriculture and Transportation. After paying your entrance fee, you’ll go into the first room which has historical items from Orange County’s late 19th/early 20th century past. I loved seeing the difference in the dresses from the impossibly corseted late 19th century and the loose flapper dresses from the roaring 1920s!

Straight ahead is the room dedicated to President Madison and his wife, Dolley. I especially loved the displays about Dolley, she is such a fascinating person from history! 

They even have a shawl worn by Dolley and a baby’s bonnet she knitted in 1806!

You can learn more about Madison and his rise to the presidency in the displays. There are several items of Madison’s on display.

There are also items from almost every Virginia president displayed.

Your kids will enjoy seeing how they measure up to the diminutive Mr. Madison, who stood at only 5’6”.

There are also two chairs in the museum belonging to cousins and fellow presidents James Madison and Zachary Taylor, who was born in Orange County.

After leaving the Madison room, continue out to the Hall of Agriculture and Transportation. If you have kids who love cars and tractors, they’ll love this part of the museum!

There are all sorts of transportation vehicles in the displays, from 1920s Model Ts to carriages from the early 19th century. I loved looking at the carriages, imagining the women in the large dresses fitting on the tiny seats!

There is also a reconstructed home in the hall. This home is an original 1732 cube house, one of the few left standing in the country. You can even walk in!

Don’t forget to get your children’s picture as James and Dolley!

Note the hall is not heated or air-conditioned so plan accordingly.

As you step back inside the museum, you’ll come to the Native American room, which details the history of the Native Americans in Orange County. If your child needs to do research on the Manahoac tribe, this room contains a wealth of knowledge!

The final room is the Black history room containing displays beginning with Black patriots’ work in the American Revolution. It has artifacts and maps about the passage of enslaved people from Africa to the New World and continues through the post-Emancipation struggle for civil rights. 

The James Madison Museum in Orange is a great stop for families looking to learn all they can about the area’s history, particularly that of its most famous resident, President James Madison. I like how the museum also tells the complete story of the county’s history and provides a wealth of information for parents and kids alike. Make it a part of a field trip to picturesque Orange County this spring!

Helpful hints:

Books to Read:

Be sure to check out my favorite recommendations of Presidential and First Lady history books for kids and adults at my Bookshop.org shop here (this is an affiliate link).

Here are some of my recommended books specifically about James and Dolley (all photos are Amazon affiliate links).

Young Adult/Adult:

Montpelier and the Madisons: House, Home and American Heritage

Strength And Honor: The Life Of Dolley Madison

Dolley: A Novel

Middle Grade:

Dolley Madison and the War of 1812

The Great Little Madison

Dolley Madison Saves History (Graphic History)

Women Who Broke the Rules: Dolley Madison

The Bill of Rights in Translation: What It Really Means 

What Is the Constitution?

… If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution 

Picture Books:

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Washington is Burning

A Picture Book of Dolley and James Madison 

Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution

A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution

5 thoughts on “James Madison Museum (Virginia)

  1. How wonderful that you did this on the James Madison Museum. I have always felt it was overlooked being so close to Montpelier. I was also excited to see your link to the birth places of Madison, Monroe and Washington.

    I live at Belle Grove Plantation in King George, Virginia, Birthplace of Madison. In fact my bedroom is over the original foundation of his grandmother’s home where he was born.

    We would love to have you return to really take a look at Belle Grove Plantation and all its amazing American History. We do tours Wednesday to Sunday from 1pm to 4pm. We conduct afternoon tea 7 days a week at 11am and 1pm, by reservation only.

    If you are able to make it on Saturday, March 12, 2022, we will have James and Dolley Madison and James Monroe here. They will be helping us celebrate Mr. Madison’s Birthday. More details on the schedule of the event are on our website are BelleGrovePlantation.com.

    We hope to see you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I plan to come back for a tour in the spring. I’m sorry I can’t make it this weekend but hope to see you soon! Maybe for tea, that sounds lovely!

      Liked by 1 person

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