Friday, January 19, 2007

My DC Trip....Part III: Ash Lawn - Highland

So you are all probably wondering what took me so long to get to Part III! Well, unfortunately life intervened, but finally here is Ash Lawn (Highland).

Highland was the home of James Monroe. Notice the name change? Well, the Monroes' called their home Highland, but after their deaths it was called Ash Lawn. As a historian, I'm being obstinate and using Highland.

Actually I didn’t realize that it was so close to Monticello. I had planned on going to Montpelier and Monticello from my map and I knew that Monroe was from Virginia, but not where in the state he was. As I got closer to Monticello I also began seeing signs for Highland. It turns out that Highland is only a few miles from Monticello (next door neighbors when you are talking about plantations). After I left Monticello I started following the signs for Highland. After getting lost only once, I found it. I didn’t have time to actually tour the house (my husband kind of expected me to pick him up eventually!), but did go take a quick look.

Highland is owned and operated by the College of William and Mary. You can take a virtual tour of the place on your computer.

The Monroe’s house was a farmhouse, but elegantly decorated with many items from Napoleonic France. This Neoclassical chair was made in Paris in 1800. I used this picture because this chair actually looks like it might be comfortable and I find that most antiques look the exact opposite!

The dining room set is Hepplewhite and the chairs went with them to the White House.

The grounds of Highland are huge – 535 acres today and 3500 acres in Monroe’s time. You can see these pictures that I took on the long drive way. The Monroes were slave owners. Thomas Jefferson noted that Monroe’s slave quarters were "of much better built than is usual....,” but they were still slaves. The Highland website on Monroe slaves ends with this thought:
In the main house, the formal rooms on the main floor remind visitors how dependent the household was on its slave labor force. The banquet of food in the dining room, the pressed linens in the chamber, and the polished furniture and swept floors all bear witness to a labor force that is, today, all but invisible. The challenge for Ash Lawn-Highland is to remind the modern visitor of the profound influence of this invisible force, whose coerced labor enabled the plantation system to function and to thrive.

Highland offers a wide variety of workshops and tours. You can access their schedule and see that there is something for almost any taste. I was quite impressed with the workshop choices.

Some things to remember about Highland:

  • The signs are clear and you should have no trouble finding it, although after you get past Monticello there are a couple of places were it seems like you’ve gone too far, but you really haven’t. It really is out in the country!
  • Admission is $9 for adults, making it much cheaper than Monticello. As a note, you can purchase a joint ticket (the Presidents’ Pass) for Monticello and Highland, making it cheaper for you to visit. This pass includes Michie Tavern as well. It also offers discounts to local residents, Triple A members, seniors and children. They do offer group rates and if you take a workshop (which is $15 for adults and $10 for students), you get a house tour with it.
  • Ash Lawn does a summer opera festival if you are interested. Since they are affiliated with William and Mary they have a huge offering of special events – check out what is going on while you are in the area.

Well, this concludes my trip posts. Hope you enjoyed them!

If you missed a part you can find them:


Part I: Montpelier

Part II: Monticello

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