Author: Sara Bon-Harper

the executive director of James Monroe’s Highland.


Highland was the Albemarle County plantation home of James Monroe, the fifth president of the United States. Monroe maintained Highland as a plantation using enslaved labor until 1828. He lived at Highland sporadically from 1799 to 1826, making it his most consistent home during his adult life. In dire financial circumstances, Monroe sold the core of the Highland property, including the residence, in 1826, and the remaining farmlands in 1828. The main house at Highland burned shortly after, and by the late 1800s its existence had been forgotten and the standing house on the property misidentified as a remnant wing of Monroe’s house. The property passed through a series of private owners in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was opened to the public as a museum starting with its last private owner, Jay Winston Johns, who purchased the property in 1930 and willed it to the College of William and Mary upon his death in 1974. Highland initiated archaeological and architectural research in 2014 that discovered the buried remains of Monroe’s main house and correctly identified the standing house as an evolved structure built from an 1818 presidential guesthouse.