Summer 2016 Issue


History Rewritten

Suzanne Seurattan

Recent excavations at Highland - the historic Charlottesville, Va., home of the nation's fifth president and W&M alumnus James Monroe - are upending history. The archaeology combined with tree-ring dating shows that a newly discovered foundation, not the modest home still standing on the property, was Monroe's house in 1779. This new foundation shows a free-standing and sizable house, and includes part of the base of a large chimney preserved below the floor level, several sections of stone wall foundations, segments of thicker walls belonging to a stone cellar, and charred planks likely pointing to the destruction of the building by fire. The Highland property is part of William & Mary and is the only U.S. president's home currently owned by a university. Over his lifetime, Monroe contributed a 50-year career in public service, serving both Virginia and the nation in a variety of positions including his two-term presidency from 1817
to 1825.