The Architecture of Jim Crow

You might easily drive by the little train station near the entrance to James Madison’s Montepelier estate. It is vernacular architecture, built in 1910, to serve the wealthy then-owners of Montpelier, the duPont family. But its restoration, part of Montpelier’s ongoing development of the Madison site, has returned it to its Jim Crow layout, with separate waiting rooms for “colored” and “white” people. That’s a daring move, and an effective one. One must see the obscenity to know its full impact. How odd and tragic that a space which might have been larger and more open and filled with more light was subdivided, to the shame of one group, the insult of another and the inconvenience of both. I wrote about it in Sunday’s The Washington Post and I encourage everyone in striking distance of Orange, VA to pay it a visit. And take in the main Madison house as well, which is looking splendid after the removal of the Pepto-Bismol colored encrustation of the duPont era.

Image by John Strader, courtesy of The Montpelier Foundation

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1 Comment

Filed under Architecture, Culture, Preservation

One response to “The Architecture of Jim Crow

  1. Linda Childs

    The restoration of the Dupont Train Station was my late husband Russell Childs’ idea, when he was Director of Projects at Montpelier during its early restoration stage. He was an architect committed to historic preservation; and he was among the first to see the possibility in this neglected reminded of a time in this country’s history that most of us were content to forget. Thank you for your excellent, in-depth coverage of the train station opening and for highlighting the significance of preserved architectural evidence of ALL of our history, including the shameful.

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