PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: ASH LAWN HIGHLAND, HOME OF PRESIDENT JAMES MONROE
Welcome to number thirteen in this series about presidential destinations for your vacations. The list of presidential destinations I’ve actually visited only has two more names on it, James Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. I’m sure I’ve had more fun writing this series than anyone will have reading it, but I hope that through reading these blogs you’ve found some presidential destinations you want to visit.
Neighbor of Thomas Jefferson
Since we went to Monticello last week, let’s go visit Jefferson’s neighbor, just down the hill at Ash Lawn Highland, James Munroe. Presidents Jefferson and Munroe were of similar mind. In fact, according this brochure, Jefferson picked out Munroe’s property for him to “create a society to our taste.” Gardeners from Monticello started Munroe’s orchards. The two were very much in one another’s company.
President James Monroe
Besides being the fifth president of the US, Munroe was a Senator, Minister to France, England and Spain, Governor of Virginia and Secretary of State and of War. He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe doctrine was the basis of our foreign policy for many decades. His presidency was “The Era of Good Feeling.”
His home, Ash Lawn Highland is a pastoral gem. It’s not as grand as Monticello and won’t take long to visit, but you should see it. In fact, when you get in that part of the world there’s a lot to see and none of it is too far away. You could visit Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland, see Mount Vernon the next day and then go to Colonial Williamsburg. A drive of just over two hundred miles connects them all.
Other Attractions in the Area
Ash Lawn Highland wasn’t available to the public the first time I saw Monticello in 1969. Before his death Munroe, health and financial challenges forced him to sell the property, but on that trip I did visit Lincoln’s Birthplace, Stephen Foster’s Old Kentucky Home, Washington D.C., Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Myrtle Beach – all on the same vacation.
On returning to the area in the nineties with my husband, Ash Lawn Highland had been bequeathed in 1974 to the College of William and Mary “for the education of the general public.” Along with Monticello and Ash Lawn Highland we enjoyed the scenery along Skyline Drive. I’m trying to think of a way to describe Shenandoah to you without employing any of the over-used superlatives which crowd the usual travel brochure, but it’s difficult. The scenery is beautiful, breath-taking and gorgeous. After a day of driving we were worn out – not because the drive had been difficult, but because the scenery had been so overwhelming. As we pulled into Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park my husband saw the most exciting thing he’d seen all day: a doe and her fawn feeding in a clearing by the side of the road completely unfazed by the human population across the street from them.
We loved Shenandoah and Skyline Drive. Driving through Virginia you can understand the extreme devotion men like Jefferson, Munroe and Washington had for this nation. Their dreams were big and they were willing to sacrifice their lives for our young nation. Jefferson and Munroe brought us the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark. These men laid the groundwork for manifest destiny, but they built their homes in Virginia. I’m thinking it was about more than proximity to the White House. What do you think?