President Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, owned Highland from 1793 to 1826 and made it their official residence from 1799 to 1823. Under a later owner, the plantation name was changed to “Ash Lawn”; today it is known as “James Monroe’s Highland.”
Highland is both a historic site and an events venue, continuing Monroe’s tradition of welcoming friends, neighbors, dignitaries, and visitors from around the globe. The site tour offers a compelling glimpse into a period of growth in U.S. history, in a setting full of abundant charm. Nestled against a ridge, Monroe’s Highland is a landscape of rolling hills, pastures, and woodland, providing an unequalled backdrop of beauty and history for meetings, weddings, parties of all kinds, picnics, and living history interpretations in the restored plantation core.
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. 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.
Over the next 16 years, Monroe continued to add onto 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.
James Monroe’s Highland offers guided tours year-round. In the restored guest house, the rich collection of period and Monroe-family furnishings perfectly exemplifies James and Elizabeth Monroe’s international style, while also demonstrating their strong American connections. Our guided tour emphasizes Monroe’s many and varied contributions to our nation’s early history. Known for his two-term presidency, James Monroe held many political offices, including roles in the Continental Congress and the U.S. Senate, and multiple terms as Governor of Virginia. The story of James Monroe’s life features the American Revolution, southern and western expansion, international diplomacy and our earliest foreign policy, critical issues surrounding slavery—including a major slave rebellion, the international slave trade, and the anti-slavery movement—Congressional compromise, and of course his eight years as President of the United States.