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Archive for virginia

Lost and Found in Charlottesville

By Linda Tancs

Almost lost to history, extensive archaeological work has revealed the original footprint of Highland, home to U.S. President James Monroe. It burned down in the 1800s, but the guest house remains, filled with family furniture and portraits. A devoted public servant for 50 years, Monroe was the most popular U.S. president of his era, a four-term Virginia governor, Secretary of State and Secretary of War (under James Madison) and an international diplomat, among other things. The grounds include the Highland Rustic Trails, interpretive trails that wind through the pasture and wooded hillside of the estate. In addition to traditional guided tours, the estate offers augmented reality tours featuring a wearable glass device imposing characters of the era (including Monroe) for a more authentic experience. Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Highland is part of William and Mary, Monroe’s alma mater.

July 4th at Monticello

By Linda Tancs

With enviable views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is one of the most famous and popular of the presidential estates, a World Heritage Site, museum, research institute and presidential library. Author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia, Jefferson died at the estate in 1826 on July 4th, of all days. The Fourth of July remains an auspicious day at Monticello, where an annual Independence Day celebration and naturalization ceremony take place. The festivities include a speaker, an open house with free walk-through tours of the mansion’s first floor and plenty of patriotic music. The estate is located at 931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A Tribute to the Marines

By Linda Tancs

A public-private partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the National Museum of the Marine Corps is a tribute to U.S. Marines. Its purpose is to view the history of America through the eyes of the Marine Corps and to discover what it’s like to be a Marine. The facility houses approximately 1,000 artifacts that range in size from tactical attack aircraft to individual blouse buttons from the Civil War. Another highlight is the Legacy Walk, which provides a quick initiation into the rich and storied history of the Corps and connects the museum’s seven primary exhibit galleries. The museum is located in the town of Triangle, Virginia, just 36 miles south of Washington, D.C.

One of America’s Oldest Regions

By Linda Tancs

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of America’s oldest regions. Settled in 1615, it predates the landing of the Mayflower by five years. A narrow, 70-mile peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, the area is the antidote to commercial, blanket-to-blanket beach communities found elsewhere. Of course, there are beaches (six public ones) as well as wildlife refuges and a National Seashore. Historically, many districts in the towns are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The region also hosts the homestead of one of America’s influential colonial families and the repository for the oldest continual court records. Accomac is particularly famous for its debtors’ prison (used until 1849), a rare survivor of penal architecture of the colonial period. Highway 13, commonly known as Route 13, is the major north-south highway on the Eastern Shore. Heavily traveled in summertime, you’ll find little congestion this time of year.

The Lees of Virginia

By Linda Tancs

A successful tobacco planter and land speculator, Thomas Lee purchased property in Virginia in 1717 and began construction on a large brick Great House that survives today. Named Stratford for his grandfather’s home in London, the family homestead gave rise to a series of illustrious family members, counting among them two brothers who signed the Declaration of Independence, diplomats, a women’s rights advocate and one of the first judges elected to the commonwealth’s supreme court. But perhaps the most famous occupant of Stratford Hall Plantation (as it’s known today) is Robert E. Lee, the future General of the Confederate Army, who was born there in 1807. In addition to a tour of the Great House, visitors will enjoy the formal East Garden, restored to a typical 18th century English style. Nature trails follow the garden past the north gate. The south entrance to the house is equally impressive, described by General Lee himself as opening up to a row of poplars. The south lawn terminates in a ha-ha wall, an 18th century device which permits an uninterrupted view of the plantation while preventing the encroachment of livestock.

Madison’s Montpelier

By Linda Tancs

James Madison was the fourth president of the United States and a chief architect of the Constitution. He did most of his research and writing for that document and others at his estate, Montpelier. Located in Orange County, just north of Charlottesville and east of Culpeper, combine a mansion tour with a walk through over eight miles of marked trails. In addition to offering spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the trails highlight notable tree and plant specimens, particularly along the James Madison Landmark Forest, an old-growth forest managed only to remove non-native invasive species.

America’s First Settlement

By Linda Tancs

Historic Jamestowne in Virginia is the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America. It all started in June 1606 when King James I granted a charter to a group of London entrepreneurs, the Virginia Company, to establish an English settlement in the Chesapeake region of North America. They landed on Jamestown Island, where the settlers built a fort and the First General Assembly (the oldest continuous law-making body in the Western Hemisphere) convened to govern the Crown colony some years later. Thanks to archeological efforts, the lives of the first settlers and their relations with Native Americans like Pocahontas are displayed through exhibits and artifacts at the award-winning Archaearium museum.

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