Since I visited James Monroe’s Highland, (home of the fifth U.S. president) earlier this spring, there have been some pretty exciting changes, including the name.
The estate was called Ashlawn-Highland when I was there, but due to some recent archaeological findings, history has been turned on its head and the name along with it!
During our tour, we were told that written records showed James Monroe had updated his fire insurance policy using dimensions of a home that didn’t match those of Ashlawn-Highland. That of course prompted more archaeological digging!
They discovered that the foundation of what was likely the actual James Monroe house was underneath the structure they had always believed was his home (the yellow and white house pictured below). It’s such an exciting twist on the history books!
Incidentally, the estate’s new name reflects the name originally given to it by James Monroe – Highland. So let me tell you what you can expect to see at James Monroe’s Highland now.
A spectacular entrance
The view as you drive into the plantation which Monroe referred to as his “cabin castle” is gorgeous. James Monroe was Thomas Jefferson’s next door neighbor; his property ran right up to Monticello, and although the home was never as grand, the countryside sure was. You’ll want to take time to wander and enjoy the view of those rolling hills.
James Monroe’s Guest House
The building below once thought to be Monroe’s home was actually his guest house, next to which a later addition was built (post-Monroe era). Monroe’s home actually burned down, which is why the foundation is beneath this structure. Pretty exciting history twist in the making!
Historical Outbuildings to Self-tour
Wander through the kitchen, original smokehouse, overseer’s cottage and reconstructed guest quarters.
A 300 Year-old White Oak Tree
It’s often called a witness tree. Imagine all it has seen!
They’re believed to have been planted after Monroe’s time, but they’re fabulous! I was there in February, so the gardens weren’t in bloom yet. I hope to make it back to see it all in its seasonal glory.
James Monroe’s Statue
It was originally made for Argentina to celebrate the Monroe doctrine, but after a coup of some sort, they gave it back. Look closely and you’ll see he has a missing finger (which they have). Statue restoration and repairs are in the works.
Visit the barn to get a look at the sheep, and mark your calendar for the Annual Sheep Shearing in April.
Tip: I highly suggest you take the 35 minute tour. (Ticket info here.) It gives excellent insight into James Monroe’s contributions as a founding father of this country.
It also provides a glimpse into a working farm plantation with original and period furnishings and of course, you’ll have the chance to stroll the extraordinary gardens, grounds and outbuildings at your leisure.
For everything you need to know about Charlottesville, check out VisitCharlottesville.org