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the home of James Monroe
In 1793, James Monroe purchased a thousand acres of land adjacent to Monticello, the home of close friend Thomas Jefferson. A house was built on the property, and Highland became the Monroe Family's official residence in 1799.
In 1800, Monroe described his new 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." He spent the next 16 years expanding and improving the home. He also expanded his land holdings, which eventiually exceeded 3,500 acres. By 1815, however, Monroe was forced to start selling his land to pay debts. The home and surrounding land was sold to Edward O. Goodwin in 1826.
Goodwin, who called the estate North Bleheim, sold the house and property in 1834. Alexander Garrett bought the estate in 1837, and it was he who named it Ash Lawn. In 1867, after another series of owners, the estate was purchased by John E. Massey. It remained in the possession of the Massey family for the next sixty-three years, during which the house was greatly expanded. It was sold for the last time in 1930, to philanthropist Jay Winston Johns. Johns opened the house and surrounding grounds to the public soon after, and bequeathed it to the College of William and Mary, Monroe's alma mater, upon his death in 1974. The college continues to own and operate the estate today, as James Monroe's Highland. [http://highland.org/]
Footnote: In April 2016 archaeologists announced that the house tourists had been visiting for more than 80 years may not have been the one that Monroe and his family lived in. An archaeological excavation uncovered the foundation of a much larger home, and it is now believed that that home was the main house and that the "tourist house" was actually a guest cottage.
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This page was last updated on August 30, 2018.