Belle Grove Plantation, James Madison's birthplace, reopens

KING GEORGE, Va. (WJLA) - For decades, a historic landmark in Virginia has been closed to the public. It’s called the Belle Grove Plantation and it’s the birthplace of President James Madison. But now the doors are opening up once again with a new innkeeper who has uncovered information about the plantation’s history and significance.

Down a tree-lined drive on the banks of the Rappahannock River sits Belle Grove.

Madison’s mother arrived at the family plantation to give birth on March 16, 1751. In 1865, Union troops also came to Belle Grove while hunting for President Abraham Lincoln’s missing assassin.

For decades, the historic place has been privately owned and closed to the public, but now Michelle Darnell and her husband are opening it as a bed and breakfast. They are also uncovering the plantation’s history.

Michelle has found dozens of artifacts on site and is compiling information about the people who lived at Belle Grove, even discovering that ten people are buried on the property.

“Now I know where they are and able to mark that spot and say 'This is where they are...'" she says.

Now that the sign is up, people are starting to stop by.

“The opportunity to be able to come back for some who are older now and used to come as children has truly generated a lot of great memories for them,” says Ruby Brabo, King George County supervisor.

The Darnell’s hope that by bringing people back to Belle Grove will breathe new life into the piece of American history. They also plan to create a small museum to display the artifacts and dedicate a memorial to the slaves who once lived on the plantation.