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U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Ash Lawn-Highland. Note: The yellow wing was added on by later owners.
Ash Lawn-Highland is located in Virginia
Nearest city: Charlottesville, Virginia
Coordinates: 37°58′46″N 78°27′16″W / 37.97944°N 78.45444°W / 37.97944; -78.45444Coordinates: 37°58′46″N 78°27′16″W / 37.97944°N 78.45444°W / 37.97944; -78.45444
Built/Founded: 1799
Architect: Thomas Jefferson
Governing body: Private
Added to NRHP: August 14, 1973
NRHP Reference#: 73001990 [1]

Ash Lawn-Highland, located near Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, and adjacent to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, was the estate of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States. Purchased in 1793, Monroe and his family permanently settled on the property in 1799 and lived at Ash Lawn-Highland for twenty-four years. Personal debt forced Monroe to sell the plantation in 1825. Before and after selling Highland, Monroe spent much of his time living at Oak Hill.

President Monroe simply called his home "Highland." It did not acquire the additional name of "Ash Lawn" until after his death.

The estate is now owned, cared for and operated by Monroe's alma mater, the College of William and Mary.




Monroe Establishes Highland

Back side of Ash Lawn-Highland

Encouraged by his close friend, Thomas Jefferson, Monroe purchased a deed for one thousand acres (4 km²) of land adjacent to Monticello in 1793 for an equal number of pounds from the Carter family. The land formerly had been a part of the Blenheim Plantation owned by Champe Carter.[2] Six years later, Monroe moved his family onto the plantation, where they resided for the next twenty-four years. In 1800, Monroe described his 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."[2]

Over the next 16 years, Monroe continued to add on to his home, adding stone cellars and a second story to the building. He also expanded his land holdings, which at their greatest included over 3,500 acres (14 km²). However, by 1815, Monroe increasingly turned to selling his land to pay for debt. By 1825, he was forced to sell his home and the property.[2]

Highland post Monroe

The Ash Lawn addition to Highland made by later owners

Edward O. Goodwin purchased Highland from Monroe at twenty dollars an acre and often referred to the property as "North Blenheim." At the time of the purchase, Monroe described Highland as containing:

"a commodious dwelling house, buildings for servants and other domestic purposes, good stables, two barns with threshing machine, a grist and sawmill with houses for managers and laborers . . . all in good repair."[2]

Goodwin sold the house and six hundred acres (2.4 km²) in 1834 and it was sold again in 1837 to Alexander Garrett. Garrett gave the property its second name which remained with it to the present day, "Ash Lawn."[2] Over the course of thirty years, Ash Lawn-Highland was sold numerous times until 1867, when John Massey purchased it. It remained in the possession of the Massey family for the next sixty-seven years. In that time period, the family added to the house, whereupon it took on its present day appearance.[2]

Ash Lawn-Highland was sold for the last time in 1930 to philanthropist Jay Winston Johns of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Johns family soon after opened the house to public tours and upon his death in 1974, Johns willed the property to James Monroe's alma mater, the College of William and Mary.[3]

Ash Lawn-Highland Today

One of the several peacocks which live on the property today.

Highland was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production,[4] Guide to Historic Homes of America.

Today, Ash Lawn-Highland is a 535 acre (2.2 km²) working farm, museum, and a performance site for arts, operated by the College of William and Mary. It is open to the public year round, though with limited hours from October through March.


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