A road-trip reminiscence for Mellow Yellow Monday. We visited so many interesting places while we were in Virginia that we ran out of time to post them all while we were traveling.
This somewhat unpretentious-looking house is Ashlawn-Highlands, the home of James Monroe, our fifth President. It was even less grand when James and Elizabeth Monroe lived in it, because their home consisted of only the white part. The yellow part is an addition by a subsequent owner. Our tour guide said that because the addition is a good example of Victorian architecture it is being kept intact, but the color is kept separate to distinguish between the original home and the addition. Some collectible items owned by Monroe are displayed in the addition (Presidential china, jewelry, portraits). The Monroes were the first presidential family to have presidential china commissioned. He had earlier served as Ambassador to France and also displayed are pieces of Frendh royal china and clothing and jewelry that the couple brought back.
Monroe, was the last Founding Father of the United States to serve as President and the last one of the "Virginia Dynasty." This home is near Jefferson's Monticello and in fact Monroe purchased the land in 1793 because of his great friendship with Jefferson, who lent the Monroes gardeners and cuttings from his own gardens.
The original home has only one bedroom. The tour guide said that guests would have to stay overnight because of the distance and travel time involved in those days. An extra bed or cots or even blankets on the floor would be put in the same bedroom with their hosts. The bedroom was really not that large, but apparently this was an accepted practice. Their first guests were James and Dolley Madison.
When the Monroes returned after his two terms as President, they hosted a lot more company, so it was remodeled into guest quarters (easy to imagine why.)
There were other similar buildings that were slave houses, but then they were homes for two families. These were for the house slaves and there were other smaller quarters elsewhere on the 500+ acre for the people who worked on the farm.
The tour guide told us that Monroe taught his slaves to read (which was illegal) and reminded us that he supported the idea of sending emancipated slaves out of the country. When the country of Liberia was established for this purpose, it's capital was named for him. As at several of our other stops on this roadtrip, it would be have been easier not to think about this sad part of our country's history, but it is part of it that we all need to remember.
Ash Lawn is owned by the College of William and Mary, Monroe's alma mater. After many years under private ownership, it was bequeathed to the college in 1974 "for the education of the general public."
The College has refurbished it based on inventory lists found in their historical research. They are still in the process of using archeology and research to find and reconstruct outbuildings.