Ash Lawn-Highland is the restored home James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. Thomas Jefferson encouraged James Monroe to buy the land, which is next to his plantation Monticello, in order to form a society to their taste in Albemarle County. In 1974, Jay Winston Johns, an industrialist, gave the estate to the College of William and Mary which is Monroe's alma mater. Visitors are able to walk through the boxwood gardens, and tour the frame of the brick house. The 550-acre estate looks like a working farm with roaming peacocks, spinning and weaving demonstrations, open hearth cooking demonstrations and tours of the house and gardens. There is a herb and vegetable garden to enjoy and a statue of James Monroe at one end of the boxwood gardens.
Backstory and Context
There are daily house tours available to the public. The house currently features period furniture from both France and America. The grounds also include two original out buildings as well as reconstructed slave quarters.
Monroe was forced to sell his home in order to pay off debts, the final sale taking place in 1825 to Edward O. Goodwin. Since then the house changed hands a few more times before the last owner, Jay Winston Johns, a philanthropist from Pittsburgh, willed it to the College of William and Mary upon his death in 1974.
The house preserved today has long been believed to really be the guest house of a larger home. This theory was proved correct when in 2012 foundations of a larger building were discovered. Work to uncover the foundations and research continues to this day.