Category Archives: Presidential

Homes and Libraries associated with American Presidents

Jamie Wyeth at the San Antonio Museum of Art

From MFA.org the site of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston

From MFA.org the site of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston

TRAVEL THERE: WYETH NOT VISIT THE SAMA?

Sorry for the pun but I couldn’t resist! From The Pearl we crossed the Riverwalk’s Museum Reach and entered the San Antonio Museum of Art in its Lone Star Brewery digs. This is a museum I love, but so far in this multi-year journey I haven’t told you much about it, in spite of the fact that I have visited.

My Love Affair with the SAMA

I first visited many years ago when it was in a warehouse downtown.  I’ll confess I loved their installations in the old space.  They had less room, so they were very creative with their displays.  The old antiquities exhibit was one of my all time favorites.  The entire ancient world was represented in one room.  Many different pieces were suspended in the air  inside one large area. I would always lose count of time as I considered each piece and compared to the others nearby.  There was less to see, but I liked that I could take it all in during a fairly short visit – if I didn’t spend hours in the antiquities section.

Their new digs are so spacious that I have yet to make it through the modern art section.  I always start with the antiquities and European Art and before I get to the modern stuff I’ve worn myself out.  This, of course, is not the SAMA’s fault.  I feel a little guilty about always opting for the classics, but not guilty enough to do anything about it.

My Recent Visit

Tip of the hat to my Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) membership which got us free admission.  The guy manning the entry booth at the river didn’t know anything about the VIA trolleys, so they first thing we did was trot over to the “official” information booth.  They said the trolley had just been by, so we had almost an hour before they would be back again.  We discussed our options and chose the Jamie Wyeth exhibit.

When you say Wyeth to me, I immediately think of the patriarch of the Wyeth artists, N.C.,  an illustrator whose colorful plates graced classic tales like Treasure Island and Robinson Caruso, but he spawned a litter of artists, all of whom have created beautiful works.  The DMA once had a Wyeth retrospect exhibit featuring masterworks from the father and his talented offspring.  I knew Jamie for a famous portrait of JFK – not the official one, but this one.

I’ll have to say that much of Jamie’s art is a little odd and introspective for me.  Bloody seagulls are just not my thing.  I am, however, glad we had the chance to take in the exhibit before the trolley showed up.  I have, after all, been looking at the museum’s own collection for a long time.  Unfortunately, if Deb wants to see it, we’re going to have to go back another time (and you know how much we’d hate that!).

If you want to see Jamie’s work, you’ll need to go to Bentonville, AR and see it at the Crystal  Bridges Museum of American Art.  But Crystal Bridges is the last stop on the tour, so get there by October 10th.

Hopping the VIA

Back at the SAMA, not wanting to miss VIA’s once hourly trolley, we arrived at the stop early and enjoyed the break. When the trolley showed up, we climbed on and wanted to pay for a $4 all day ticket, but neither of us had singles and they don’t give change.  So our $4 tickets were $5 each.  Inconvenient, so don’t make our mistake.  However, we were ready for a lift.

Next stop in the San Antonio Stroll?  The San Antonio Botanical Gardens.  Come back next week and I’ll give you a tour.

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Christmas, President and Mrs. Bush-Style

Welcome to the George W,. Bush Library.

Welcome to the George W,. Bush Library.

TRAVEL HERE: CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS WITH #43

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum has been high on my to do list – ever since it opened, but I’ve been kinda of busy. With all of my Christmas shopping done, the Sunday before Christmas turned out to be a perfect time to visit.  Well almost perfect.

Chilly Reception

It was COLD last Sunday.  I bundled up, but I had on a skirt and heels from church. A pair of pantyhose was the only thing protecting my legs from the arctic air. BRRRRRR.  We did get to park right across the street from the library, but I was still pretty frosty.

And then there was the line.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to death Dallas has an attraction like Dubya’s library, but I thought everyone would be out shopping.  Not so!

Anyway, though long, the line moved pretty fast.  Almost before I could say “No Child Left Behind,” we were standing in front of the security station.  They didn’t make me take off my shoes, but my bracelet and belt set off the alarm. (Now boarding at Gate 43!)

Once past security, purchasing tickets was a snap.  I’d downloaded the library app to my smartphone, so I passed up the audio tour.  Come to find out, that was a mistake.  I never got the phone to tell me anything.  Perhaps I needed earphones.  I’ll do some research before I visit again.  I was not very well prepared this time.

Truth be told, however, I don’t know what I would have done with more information.  I’m just not ready for this millennium.  I live in a constant state of information overload.  Sitting at home watching an episode of Dancing with the Stars is challenging, because so many tidbits flash in my face.  I have a hard time deciding whether it’s a twitter post or an advertisement.  There are so many feeds squeezed on the screen that I can’t figure out what’s up.  That’s how I felt at the Library.

Waiting to enter the library, there’s a cool video presentation.  All kinds of people and places are presented in an inventive way.  I recognized some of the people and scenes, but others left me wondering what exactly they had to do with the 43rd president.

Dubya’s Library

Then we gained access to the permanent  exhibits on the north side of the museum.  Just inside the entrance, snippets of George W. Bush’s life are presented in multi-media.  I was engrossed, trying to take it all in, but Mr. Bill was antsy.  He’d already had to wait in too many lines and he didn’t want to miss the five minute film that was about to begin.  I wasn’t ready, but I like being married, so we know what I did.

After the film, I returned to where I’d been, but I’d lost my front row vantage point and no one was going to let me in. I gave up, because I’ll be back, and headed into the “No Child Left Behind” section.  This is the heartbeat of the Bush family.  Before the day was over, I heard them mention their devotion to education a number of times.  This particular area is very kid friendly, with a kid-sized benches inside a faux school bus and a cozy reading nook.  I love the idea of No Child Left Behind, but I can’t say that I’m enamored with the application of the initiative and there  were no kids with me, so we moved on.

Next was the 9/11 section, beginning with bent girders from the Twin Towers.  Poignant memories of that day still haunt me, but this is where I figured out that I wasn’t going to be able to take it all in on this first visit.  Every wall in the place, from somewhere about my knees to far above my head, is plastered with information and it comes in a variety of formats.  Some of its video, other is print, still more is artifacts.  In addition, just about kid level, are all kinds of hands-on things to do.  Kinetic is not my primary learning mode, but I appreciated that they really did have something for everyone.

There’s the obligatory Oval Office, several of Laura’s dresses and many of the things you’re used to seeing in a presidential museum.  (You’ll notice I said “Laura.”  That’s how the staff refers to them, “George and Laura.”  It made me feel very cozy with the Bushes.)  I always enjoy these personal touches and get a kick out of seeing tables set for formal dinners.  What I love best is the international stuff.  I could have spent a day just on the memorabilia and photographs from their hosting and visiting of international people and places.

Sort of center stage is an area called Decision Point – like his book.  It’s sort of an interactive game you play with a room full of people.  Each member of the audience sits at a screen and then a video at the front of the room leads you through one of the issues in Bush’s presidency.  First everyone votes on what subject they want to consider and my group chose Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction.  That had not been my vote.  Therein lies the problem with a simple majority.

The concept is good, but I didn’t feel as if enough time had passed for it to really be meaningful.  In a couple of decades, this game may leave the biggest impact on visitors, but for me, it was merely a reiteration of things I already knew.  After all, not only did I live through it just a few years ago, my husband served as an interpreter in Iraq and I’ve read Mr. Bush’s book.  If you have been or visit someday, tell me what you think.

Video is a big part of the museum.  Several short films allow George, Laura and the family to tell their own story in their own words.  One video is narrated by the twins.  It highlights Camp David and Prairie Chapel Ranch.  The final video is George and Laura, sharing their visions for the future and thanking you for taking the time to come to the library. Laura’s a big part of the museum, too, but not oppressively so.  I call the presidential museum in Simi Valley, the Nancy Reagan Library, for reasons that are immediately obvious when you visit it.

We took a little break before we saw the rest of the museum.  There are two food outlets.  One is Cafe 43.  Next time, I’m going to include it on my agenda, but we’d already had lunch when we arrived.  So we found the snack bar, a small food spot just off the central patio.  We shared a delicious yogurt parfait, but they have everything from soda to sandwiches.  I can imagine on a warmer day it would be pleasant to linger on the patio soaking in the Texas sun.  Instead we huddled together next to the counter because there are no tables inside and shivered every time someone entered the room.

Next was the gifts.  There are big picture windows around the walls of the area where the tickets are sold.  In each are gifts from dignitaries to the President and First Lady.  Actually my favorite piece was a necklace given to Condoleezza Rice.  I’m not sure what the rules are concerning these gifts, but when I worked for the government you weren’t allowed to accept any.  Good thing I’m not Condi.  They’d have had a hard time ripping that necklace out of my grungy paws.  Another favorite was a small gold clutch, but they decorated it with CZ’s instead of diamonds.  (Come on guys, Laura was married to the leader of the free world.)

Finally we entered the temporary galleries and Christmas Tree, oh Christmas Tree!  The special exhibition area was given over to the 2001 White House Christmas theme of Home for the Holidays.  If you are a lover of Christmas, like me, hurry over there now, because this exhibit ends on January 5th.  The tree was well worth the price of admission, all by itself and we’d already enjoyed so much.  But there’s more.  They had scale models of different presidents’ homes and I enjoyed comparing those I’d seen with those I haven’t visited – yet.

I confess, I didn’t even know they had a Christmas related-exhibit at the museum, but now I’ve subscribed to their blog, so I shouldn’t be missing anything else.  You shouldn’t miss anything either.  This is a must-see, wherever you are, but if you live in Texas you have no excuse.  Get yourself to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum!  Oh yeah – and Happy New Year!

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Beautiful Belle Grove Plantation

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina

Arriving at Belle Grove

TRAVEL THERE: BELLE GROVE PLANTATION

I’m excited to welcome a guest to my blog today, Michelle Darnell.  She and her husband are starting a Bed and Breakfast Inn on a very lovely plantation in Virginia.  Not just any old plantation, but Belle Grove, the birthplace President James Madison.  Please enjoy the lovely images Michelle has provided and read what she has to say about Belle Grove and several other historic Virginia sites.  Then look at your calendar and set aside some days to visit her when the inn opens in May:

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina

Almost there!

Entering the Property

“As you approach the entrance, you see before you a long drive lined with ancient trees of old. Birds fly in and out of the Red Cedars singing their tunes as a quiet alarm of an approaching visitor. Warm summer breezes sweep through the trees as the sun shines down on the fields in the distance. Just ahead you see the gate posts worn from time that have stood as sentinels against those who would come to disturb the peace of this plantation.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina

The Bowling Green

Your sight takes in the carpet of green grass of the bowling green that leads you up to the grand old mansion. Trees that have stood before the time of this plantation still stand guard over it, witnesses of the history that passed just below their out stretched arms. The laughter of children, the tears of families and haunting silence of years of lonely abandon echoes in their branches as the wind whispers through their leaves.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, Virgina

Eagles wheeling in the sky above Belle Grove

Over head you hear the call of a majestic eagle as he sweeps through the high currents of the clear blue sky as clouds drift back as if only to admire the beauty this land has to offer. As you step out into the sun light, peace seems to pull you in close, cradling you in its loving arms.

Beautiful Virginia

This sight is just a taste of what lays within the border of our beautiful state of Virginia. With first permanent colony settled was settled in Jamestown in 1607, Virginia has witness the birth of a nation from the very start. As our great country grew, so did the homes and plantations of Virginia.

The Plantations and Historic Homes of Virginia are among the oldest homes in America. They have witnessed more than four centuries of American history. From these grand homes and plantation, many influential people have called Virginia home. Known as the “Mother of Presidents” eight American Presidents have called Virginia home.

In 2012, the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDowell, declared the year 2013 the “Year of the Virginia Historic Homes”. This celebration coincides with the 200th birthday of the Virginia Executive Mansion. Just like the Virginia Executive Mansion, Virginia’s Plantation and Historic Homes have been part of a rich history.

Homes such as Monticello, Mount Vernon and Montpelier are very well known and often visited locations in Virginia. But do you know places such as Westover, Berry Hill, Bacon’s Castle or Kenmore? With several hundred locations in almost every region of Virginia, you can’t turn without being within a few miles of one of these hidden gems.

James Madison's Montpelier, Virginia

James Madison’s Montpelier

Westover Plantation, Virginia

Westover Plantation

Kenmore Plantation, Virginia

Kenmore Plantation

Bacon's Castle, Virginia

Bacon’s Castle

Berry Hill, Virginia

Berry Hill

Belle Grove Plantation is Real

While the above description brings thoughts of “Gone with the Wind”, this location unlike Tara does exist here in Virginia. Located just south of Fredericksburg, sitting on a bluff overlooking the Rappahannock River, stands a Plantation Mansion called Belle Grove.

Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast, VirginiaBelle Grove Plantation was established in 1670 and was the held by the Conway Family for 120 years. From this family came a young girl who would met and marry a plantation owner from Orange County. It was here that she would return to give birth to the 4th American President and Father of the Constitution, James Madison.

Ext Back View from slope at sunset, Belle Grove, Virginia

Belle Grove from the riverside

Just minutes from his childhood home, Lawrence Washington, Great Grandfather of George Washington would play on this plantation as a child and George would be a frequent visitor in later years.
The Mansion that currently stands was built in 1791 and expanded in 1839. It is believed that the basement is the foundation of a previous home of the Conway family and possibly the home where James Madison was born.

Belle Grove has seen every American War, but the Civil War would come the closest. With the battle line drawn down the river of the Rappahannock, Belle Grove is believed to have serviced as a Union Headquarters towards the end of the war. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Belle Grove would once again play a part in history. John Wilkes Booth with his companion, David Harold would use the ferry location now found on this plantation to cross the Rappahannock River. They would later end up just three miles away at Garrett’s Farm. The Union Soldiers pursuing them would stop at Belle Grove to rest with one of the soldiers, Lt. Everton Congar, sleeping in the front hallway.

Sunset along the Rappahannock, Belle Grove, Virginia

Sunset along the Rappahannock

Now, opening to the public for the first time in its long history, Belle Grove Plantation of Port Conway, Virginia will open its doors May 2013 as historic Bed and Breakfast. Come surround yourself with the history of America while enjoying the peace of a Southern Plantation!

We invite you to visit our blog, www.virginiaplantation.wordpress.com,  and learn more about the history of Belle Grove Plantation and of many other of the Historic Homes of Virginia.”

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The Bush Library in Dallas TX

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: THE GEORGE W.BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM ON THE SMU CAMPUS

Welcome to my series on Presidential Destinations. The series was supposed to stop with Number 14, Mount Vernon, but even though I live in Dallas, I forgot that it actually has a presidential destination. If you read Number 15, you know that I’m not fond of Dallas’ association with Kennedy’s assassination, but there will soon be a presidential destination here that I’ll be proud to take visitors to: The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

I Love My Local President

I know GWB’s name is a lightning rod.  People either love him or they hate him.  Here’s your warning:  I’m on the loving team.  I’ll readily admit that, like most human beings, he made mistakes, but I think history will be a lot kinder to him than our modern day talking heads have been.  He’ll be the guy that carried us through the aftermath of 9/11, focused on critical National Security issues and, if our sense of fairness ever returns, his policies will be credited for the capture of Bin Laden.  Many people see him from a completely different point of view.  I acknowledge that and respect it, but this is my blog.

I’m a fan of GWB, but not exactly a groupie.  I remember the excitement created when Laura picked out the Preston Hollow estate for their Dallas home and I was aware that SMU would be the site of his library, but I was in the middle of completing my degree when all the fuss was going on and I really didn’t pay much attention to it.  When you offset your mid-life crisis by returning to school, your brain doesn’t have much room for anything else, but the local papers and evening news were full of it.

I still haven’t driven by their home, but I’m very familiar with the site of the library, thanks to my mom’s CPA.  He’s one of those liberals.  He knows I’m a conservative, but he baits me with liberal propaganda the whole time he’s preparing my parents’ return.  Without the political commentary, it would only take about fifteen minutes for him to plug in the few numbers necessary to complete my parents’ tax return, but we never get out of there in less than an hour.

A few years ago, in an effort to avoid the usual liberal harangue, I glanced out of his high rise office onto a baseball diamond across the highway.  “What a great view,” I said, thinking I’d hit upon a neutral subject – WRONG!  I wasn’t aware that the baseball diamond would soon be a building site for GWB’s library.  It was like Pavlov’s Dogs.  The subject of George W. Bush came up and the liberal in the room started salivating.

If you’re a fan of our forty-third president, you may already be planning a visit to Dallas next year, so you can see the largest presidential library and museum built to date.  If you aren’t a fan, maybe you should plan a visit so you’ll have a chance to hear the other side of the story.  One thing I know for sure, once the library opens my mom’s accountant will have plenty to bend my ear with.

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JFK in Dallas

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS:  DALLAS IS MORE THAN A JFK DESTINATION

Welcome to the fifteenth  installment of Primarily Presidential Destinations. We’ve covered almost all of the Presidential destinations that I’ve visited, but we haven’t talked about Dallas.  I live in Dallas now, but my family lived in Georgia when Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza.  Like most Dallasites I try to disassociate my city from the assassination, but we can’t quite shake it.

Love Field

Love Field no longer looks anything like it did when the dazzling Kennedys stepped onto the tarmac.  When I think of Love Field, my mind is more likely to run to hot pants by Pucci than a First Lady in a pink suit.  Sure I remember the black and white photos, but Braniff landed there a lot more times than Airforce One.  I never greeted a president at Love Field, but I welcomed the Dallas Cowboys outside the Braniff terminal after many an away game- whether we had won or lost.

The JFK Sites

If you live here, visitors are going to ask about Dealey Plaza, the Texas School Book Depository and Parkland Hospital, but I always discourage them.  From Dealy Plaza you can gaze at the infamous grassy knoll, but you can’t drive the route JFK did, because traffic in front of the old courthouse flows one way in the wrong direction.  You can find Parkland Hospital, but you’d never find anything in the huge complex, remodeled several times over, that even remotely reminded you of the hospital in those old news clips.

There’s an old building across from Dealey Plaza that was the Texas School Book Depository.  It’s been through several incarnations, but the infamous window is still there.  Inside there’s something called The Sixth Floor Museum.  Some guy bought up some of the contents of the Depository and several people went broke trying to make money off of them.   Apparently the current manifestation of the museum is the most successful, but it’s a good thing they have tourists to depend on, because even Dallas school teachers don’t want to take their students.

 

A block or so away from Dealey Plaza is a big square piece of concrete that is a memorial to the assassinated president.  It embarrasses me a little bit.  If a guest does insist that they must see where Kennedy was shot, I will drive them by Dealey Plaza and the Book Depository, but I never allow enough time to see the Sixth Floor Museum and I never point out the memorial.  It looks like an abandoned building project – blank walls and no ceiling.  If we were going to have a memorial to him, it should have looked more like Dealey Plaza – columns, a statue, lots of grass.  Maybe a waterfall or something, but not the empty concrete walls on a slab of concrete behind a red brick courthouse.

There’s so much more to see and do in Dallas.  Dallas didn’t kill John F. Kennedy.  Maybe it was Lee Harvey Oswald.  Maybe it was the Mafia.  Maybe it was aliens.  But it wasn’t Dallas.  For that matter, we didn’t shoot JR either, but I’ll save that for another day.

Come to Dallas to shop.  Redecorate your digs in the Design District.  Eat at our restaurants.  See the Dallas Museum of Art, The Meadows Museum, The Crow Collection of Asian Art, The Nasher  or any number of museums besides the Sixth Floor.  Catch an opera, symphony or show in the Arts District.  There a lot to do, but don’t waste time on an event we’re working so hard to ignore.

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George Washington’s Mount Vernon

PRIMARILY PRESIDENTIAL DESTINATIONS: MOUNT VERNON, HOME OF PRESIDENT GEORGE WASHINGTON

Welcome to the final stop in our series about travel destinations related to American presidents.  Now we’ll visit George Washington’s Mount Vernon.  It’s an amazing place to visit and everyone should go there, but rather than tell you a lot of historical information you can get for yourself from other sources -which I hope my other blogs in this series inspire you to do – I’m going to tell you the thing I remember most about my visit to Mount Vernon.

Where’s Susan?

On the day in 1969 when we visited Mount Vernon, we were up early and were among the first to tour the house – but the house was not all there was to see.  When they ushered us out the back door, they invited us to inspect the grounds.  Behind the house were a series of small wooden structures with a variety of uses.  My dad stuck his head inside a cookhouse and then turned around and said, “Where’s Susan?”

Every parent in the world knows that feeling.  They were right next to you, clinging to the seam of your pant or skirt one minute and the next they were gone.  I’m sure when my dad first inquired about Susan’s whereabouts I rolled my eyes and said to myself, “It’s always about Susan,” but that was merely my teen-aged angst.  Fact is, I absolutely adored that little mite and felt more than a little responsibility towards her.

When we couldn’t locate Susan after a few minutes, we began to panic and ask for help.  An hour later, my parents were talking with the security staff in low voices and Susan’s inability to swim was discussed.  Pretty much everyone from fellow tourists to the Mount Vernon security staff was involved in the search for Susan.  From the first moment, I’d wanted to set out on my own to find her, but that was the one thing no one was going to let me do.  I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I could help best by not getting lost myself and the best way for me to avoid that was to stay right there.

I was more than frustrated.  My parents were frantic and the concern of everyone else was obvious.  They’d chatted on their walkie talkies.  They’d searched the property several times in their golf carts and on foot.  They hadn’t found her and I wasn’t buying the Potomac theory.  But the grow-ups didn’t know what to suggest next, short of searching the river.

God and I have always been close, but at the age of fourteen I still thought of my parents as the first line of inquiry.  They provided food, shelter and new packages of notebook paper.  In this strange place, Susan had been their responsibility, but they hadn’t been able to produce her since Dad visited the cookhouse.  So finally, I contacted God.  He gave me the message that she was OK and told me to open my eyes and look for her.  That sort of ticked me off, because my eyes were almost raw from the way I’d been peering around trying to locate her.

I took a deep breath and began to scan the horizon once again.  My eyes ran from the corner of the house across the lawn to a small white foot bridge.  Before my brain even registered what I saw, I yelled, “There she is.”  My parents glanced toward where I was pointing, but their expressions told me they couldn’t see what I did.  I’d had enough.  I broke into a run.  Then I heard my dad yell, “It is Susan!”  My parents were not far behind me as I ran across the immaculate lawn.

We all fell to our knees and hugged the tiny redhead we loved so much.  Susan was glad to see us, but was a little bemused at the attention.  She didn’t realize she had been lost.  The couple who had found her hadn’t wanted to upset her by asking a lot of questions and because Susan was with the couple, the security staff didn’t think she was the child they were looking for.  All’s well that ends well, but it was pretty dicey there for a while.

Traveling is an adventure.  Some of the adventures are grand and others you would choose to live without if you could.  To escape the hour of trauma for my family, I’d gladly have missed the opportunity to see Mount Vernon, but you never know ahead of time what will be trouble and what will be the most fun you ever had.  You’ve got to get out there and risk losing your little sister.  In most cases, the missing siblings turn up and you go have lunch somewhere.  I don’t remember where we had lunch that day, but you can bet your bottom dollar no one got lost for the rest of the trip.

Did you ever lose your sibling at a major tourist attraction?  Or were you the one that wandered over the bridge?  We’d all like to hear about it.

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Jame Munroe’s Ash Lawn Highland

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?

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