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Ash Lawn–Highland facts for kids

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Ash Lawn-Highland. Note: The yellow wing was added on by later owners.
Location Southeast of Charlottesville off VA 53, near Simeon, Virginia
Area 200 acres (81 ha)
Built 1799 (1799)
Architect James Monroe
NRHP reference No. 73001990
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP August 14, 1973

Ash Lawn–Highland, located near Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, and adjacent to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, was the estate of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. Purchased in 1793, Monroe and his family permanently settled on the property in 1799 and lived at Ash Lawn–Highland for twenty-four years. Personal debt forced Monroe to sell the plantation in 1825. Before and after selling Highland, Monroe spent much of his time living at Oak Hill.

President Monroe simply called his home "Highland." It did not acquire the additional name of "Ash Lawn" until after his death.

The estate is now owned, operated and maintained by Monroe's alma mater, the College of William and Mary.


Monroe establishes Highland

Encouraged by his close friend, Thomas Jefferson, Monroe purchased a deed for one thousand acres (4 km²) of land adjacent to Monticello in 1793 for an equal number of pounds from the Carter family. The land formerly had been a part of the Blenheim Plantation owned by Champe Carter. Six years later, Monroe moved his family onto the plantation, where they resided for the next twenty-four years. In 1800, Monroe described his home as:

One wooden dwelling house, the walls filled with brick. One story high, 40 by 30 ft. Wooden Wing one storey high, 34 by 18 ft.

Over the next 16 years, Monroe continued to add onto his home, adding stone cellars and a second story to the building. He also expanded his land holdings, which at their greatest included over 3,500 acres (14 km²). However, by 1815, Monroe increasingly turned to selling his land to pay for debt. By 1825, he was forced to sell his home and the property.

Slave quarters

Highland was a thriving plantation employing the labor of 30-40 slaves. Their housing no longer exists. Quarters for field hands were at some distance from the main house, while the domestic slaves lived closer to their master.

Highland post Monroe

Edward O. Goodwin purchased Highland from Monroe at twenty dollars an acre and often referred to the property as "North Blenheim." At the time of the purchase, Monroe described Highland as containing:

a commodious dwelling house, buildings for servants and other domestic purposes, good stables, two barns with threshing machine, a grist and sawmill with houses for managers and laborers . . . all in good repair.

Goodwin sold the house and six hundred acres (2.4 km²) in 1834 and it was sold again in 1837 to Alexander Garrett. Garrett gave the property its second name which remained with it to the present day, "Ash Lawn." Over the course of thirty years, Ash Lawn–Highland was sold numerous times until 1867, when John E. Massey purchased it. It remained in the possession of the Massey family for the next sixty-three years. In that time period, the family added to the house, whereupon it took on its present-day appearance.

Ash Lawn–Highland was sold for the last time in 1930 to philanthropist Jay Winston Johns of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Johns family soon after opened the house to public tours and upon his death in 1974, Johns willed the property to James Monroe's alma mater, the College of William and Mary.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Ash Lawn-Highland today

The home today consists of a one-story, three bay by three bay, original frame section connected to a two-over-two central hall addition by a short wide hall serving as a parlor. The addition dates to the mid-19th century. The front of Ash Lawn faces north toward Monticello, which is visible from the front porch. Also on the property are a contributing gable-roofed ice house, a gable-roofed cabin with an exterior end brick chimney, and a smokehouse with a pyramidal roof.

Highland was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America.

Today, Ash Lawn–Highland is a 535-acre (2.2 km²) working farm, museum, and a performance site for arts, operated by the College of William and Mary. It is open to the public year round, though with limited hours from October through March.

Discovery of larger house

Evidence that this home, long believed to be Monroe's residence, was in fact a guest house, surfaced when archaeologists discovered the foundations of a much larger home presumed to be Monroe's mansion.

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