Where TravelGumbo Was #216
President James Monroe (1758-1831) was the 5th President of the United States. He is probably best know for the “Monroe Doctrine” which was incorporated in his 1823 message to Congress that the United States would no longer tolerate European colonization or interference in the matters of the Western Hemisphere.
In 1962, the Monroe Doctrine was invoked symbolically when the Soviet Union began to build missile-launching sites in Cuba. President Monroe’s wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe was First Lady of the United States from 1817 to 1825, but due to her health issues, many of the duties of official hostess were assumed by her eldest daughter, Eliza.
President Monroe was a tall man, just slightly over 6 feet, but his wife Elizabeth was barely 5 feet tall and had the legs on their children’s baby crib sawed off so it would be low enough for her to reach inside. Recently, an archeological dig at Highland uncovered the possible remains of President Monroe’s original house from 1799 which later was assumed to have burned down.
The primary dwelling remaining at Highland is the guest house which was one of my clues showing the rear view and various bedrooms, hallways, and wallpaper. The Highland estate was in private hands for a number of years and was renamed Ashlawn, but that name was recently dropped.
Highland is now owned and operated by the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg Virginia where President Monroe attended college, but almost immediately dropped out to fight in the American Revolution. After the war he studied law with his friend and mentor, Thomas Jefferson and served on the Continental Congress, then became Governor of Virginia, then President of the United States.
The hallway in the guesthouse has a very low curved ceiling because of the curved heating flues. Rumor had it that it was built that way because James Monroe was forced to bow in the direction of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello which is adjacent to Highland and only a handful of miles down the road. Highland was also home to a succession of white overseers (Overseer Cabin in photo) and enslaved African Americans who maintained the farm fields and cared for the animals.
The Highland estate has very informative daily guided tours of the buildings and grounds. Highland was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Being only a few miles from Monticello makes Highland a worthwhile second stop. If you go just another couple miles down the same road you will arrive at a few Virginia vineyards for wine tasting,