- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

An educational tour of Montpelier might last several hours, but no visit to Orange County, Va., could be complete without a look at the town of Orange itself.

A good place to start is the Orange County Department of Tourism & Visitors Bureau, at 122 E. Main St, on the opposite end of town from Montpelier. Housed in the town's 100-year-old, Colonial Revival-style train station, the folks at the visitor center love to pass out brochures for all the town, and county, attractions and don't mind giving directions. They even have a complete set of menus for all the local restaurants.

"We have a variety of history, from Montpelier to the Civil War antiques, excellent art galleries, and vineyards too," says Director of Tourism Karon C. Keith. "We've got whatever you like."

One of the town's most beautiful structures is the Orange County Courthouse, at the corner of Main Street and Route 15. The Italianate-style building features a three-stage tower with large, overhanging eaves.

And, while you're in town, don't miss the James Madison Museum at 129 Caroline St., right next door to St. Thomas' Episcopal Church, built in 1833 in the Roman Revival style inspired by Thomas Jefferson.

Interestingly, the museum which opened in 1976, long before nearby Montpelier has many original Madison objects.

"When the museum opened, it was the only one in the nation solely dedicated to James Madison," says museum Vice President Kenneth Clark. Some of the must-see items include: Madison's leather-bottom campeachy, or "siesta," chair that Jefferson gave him; a bed believed to have been Madison's mother's; two side chairs that the president owned; and James Madison's last portrait, a small painting which shows him, at 83, looking very frail and wearing a stocking cap.

Museum admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors, and $1 for children under 16. For more information, see the Web site at www.jamesmadisonmuseum.org or call 540/672-1776.

Rick Britton

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