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Visiting Ash Lawn Highland

August 16th, 2010

Mr Chiots and I took the opportunity to visit Ash Lawn Highland when were in Charlottesville, Va. It’s right down the road from Monticello, so we spent the morning at Monticello, went in to Charlottesville for lunch and headed out to Ash Lawn Highland in the afternoon. Ash Lawn Highland is the home of James Monroe, the 5th president of the U.S. It’s much more understated than Monticello and almost seems more real. Perhaps it’s because it is less commercialized and not as busy. During our visit, there were only 10 of us touring the home and gardens. Since the tours are smaller, more involved and much more informative. You feel less like you are in a cattle drive and more like you’re a guest.

One of the things I really loved about Ash Lawn Highland was, of course, the vegetable garden. It’s much much smaller than the one at Monticello, and therefore much more real. It’s quite beautiful, definitely something that would be attainable to the average home gardener. The gardens are much more in the cottage garden style, which is what I love. The white picket fences and flower borders around the vegetable garden were stunningly simple.

Right outside the kitchen, there was a small herb garden, a fairly traditional thing. It was filled with all kinds of herbs from sage to basil and I even spotted some ‘Egyptian Walking’ Onions, which may have been given to them by Thomas Jefferson (I’ve read he grew them at Monticello). They also have some fig trees by the house, which most likely came from Thomas Jefferson as well.

There was a barn and even a few cows, chickens and peacocks on the property.  It certainly helped make the gardens seem more like they would have been back when Monroe was in residence.

The house itself was very traditional and rather small, only 3 small rooms originally; a parlor, a dining room, and a bedroom. It did have another 2 rooms added later on.  A front few rooms were added in the years after they sold the property. It couldn’t be more different than Monticello, in look, size, and layout.

The slave cottages were located around a courtyard behind the house. They mentioned on the tour that even Thomas Jefferson talked about how better slave quarters couldn’t be found than the ones at Ash Lawn Highland, and I think he’s right, they were very beautiful. So nice, in fact that the Monroe’s converted a few of them to guest quarters since the main house was so small.

This style of buildings is what I really love; wooden siding painted a crisp white, stone chimneys, brick walkways, white picket fences, bountiful flower gardens and big trees. I dream of someday having a little cottage house like this on a few acres with a nice kitchen garden surrounded with a white picket fence, and of course a few chickens and maybe even a goat running around the yard.  This is my dream house and gardens, which is probably why I liked it so much.

If you even find yourself at Monticello, I’d highly recommend taking an extra hour or so to make the trip over to Ash Lawn Highland, I do not think you’ll regret it.

What style/color of house do you like the most?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.