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DC reporting in, #18: Presidential Mansions (3-5)


Friday, June 12th, 2015

DC reporting in, #18: Presidential Mansions (3-5)

Montevideo

Montpelier

Close to the southern end of Shenandoah National Park one can find the plantations / mansions of three former US Presidents – Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier, and James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland. Over the course of the weekend I went to see all three (they are pretty close together), and listened to three different versions of “how one might best try to integrate the fact that they owned slaves with still adoring these guys 100000billion%” – none of them worked all that well, frankly.

Ash Lawn - Highland The yellow part of the house was added on by later owners.

Ash Lawn – Highland
The yellow part of the house was added on by later owners.

Monticello

Monticello

What is left of the old Ash Lawn – Highland is tiny, but apparently there was an annex right where the yellow part of the house now is – still, it remains the smallest of the three Presidential homes, by far. Of the three I liked Montpelier best, both because it was far less busy than Monticello and because they had an interesting tour on James Madison and the Constitution, which meandered slowly from empty room to empty room and took you around the Estate in 2.5 hours, rather than the 30 minutes rush-rush affair that the overrun Monticello is.

Although at Monticello, in my opinion, they do the better job of dealing with the question of slavery.

And, that all said, the tour guide at Ash Lawn-Highland probably knew the most about her subject, of the three.

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