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Visitor Center

THE JAMES MONROE

BIRTHPLACE

VISITORS CENTER

                                                          

Location

4460 James Monroe Highway, Colonial Beach, VA  22443

804-214-9145

Hours of Operation

Memorial Day to Labor Day, Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

No Charge for Admission.  Donations Kindly Accepted.

Click Here for a printable brochure.

 

----- BACKGROUND -----

 

     In 1976 the College of William & Mary began the archaeological survey of the James Monroe Birthplace and uncovered the ruins of the Monroe Family Home. Unlike George Washington, whose Westmoreland birthplace is a now a National Park, Monroe did not leave the family farm at three years old. James Monroe spent his entire youth working the farm until he left for his education at The College of William & Mary. The archaeological team uncovered a 20' x 58' house foundation which coincided with the known 1845 etchings of the birth home. The archaeological study clearly indicated that James Monroe's beginnings were humble. The family resided in a small four room, rough cut wooden farm house with few outbuildings on a 500 acre farm filled with wetlands.

 

     In 2001 Susan Nelson- Warren Byrd Landscape Architects of Charlottesville were commissioned by the County of Westmoreland, Virginia to prepare a master plan for a multi-phase development of James Monroe's Birthplace site. The county's desire was to create a unique, economical, and attractive park that celebrates the birth and life of our nation's fifth president under the 2nd U.S. Constitution, James Monroe, while providing passive recreation for the local residents.

 

     In order to meet these desires, the county wanted the master plan to provide general design strategies for the construction of a roadside parking area, installation of interpretive signs, archaeological interpretation, the development of bicycle and walking trails, and any other improvements deemed necessary and desirable. An outstanding Master Plan was developed by Susan Nelson- Warren Byrd Landscape Architects in October 2001, and much of the text and illustrations shown below are drawn from that 2001 Master Plan.

 

     The site and the restoration of the birthplace, now part of a new master plan, was brought to the attention of the James Monroe Memorial Foundation's President G. William Thomas. Laurence Gouverneur Hoes and his wife, Ingrid Westesson Hoes, established the James Monroe Memorial Foundation (JMMF) in 1928. Laurence Hoes, the great-great-grandson of James Monroe, had always hoped for the JMMF to acquire the farm and reconstruct the Monroe Family Home, barn and outbuildings as an interpretive venue highlighting the modest beginnings of a great U.S. President.. On April 4th, 2005, the County of Westmoreland signed a 99 year lease with the James Monroe Memorial Foundation which will allow the Foundation to restore the Birthplace farmhouse, establish an educational visitor center, and remain the faithful steward of the Birthplace farm.

 

     The reconstruction of the James Monroe Birthplace farmhouse and related buildings will cost in excess of $500,000. The James Monroe Memorial Foundation is currently raising the money for restoration of the farmhouse.

 

----- MONROE FARM BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION -----

 

Click Here to view the Monroe Farm Boundary Description, by David Lewes of the College of William and Mary Center for Archeological Research, November, 2009.

----- MONROE BIRTHPLACE PARK OVERVIEW -----

 

Community Context: There are currently four primary land uses adjacent to the James Monroe Birthplace site. This means that there is potential for development pressure immediately surrounding the site. In order to preserve the historic and scenic aspect of the site, the master plan calls for the establishment of conservation easements and land use restrictions on adjacent properties. The park will fit into a network of bicycle routes, canoe routes, birding trails, and historic tours that are all economically pertinent to the county. The master plan calls for the protection and preservation of all archaeological resources while emphasizing community outreach through volunteer research and investigation. The site offers an excellent opportunity for school groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, and other interested parties to study and understand ecological habitats. Proper forest management is intended to provide long-term benefits for the park by producing yields of timber for profit, educating the public on sustainable forestry, and attracting wildlife. Managing the proposed meadow can be tied into forest management while providing an excellent opportunity to help restore the state's declining Bobwhite Quail population.

 

Role of the landscape architect/entrant vs. the role of other participants, including owner/client and collaborators: The landscape architect was the primary consultant with responsibility for all aspects of the master plan preparation and was influenced by a series of meetings and presentations where input was gathered from Westmoreland County's residents and public officials. The master planning process included comprehensive documentation and analysis of the site and its geographic and historical relationship to its context. Through investigating maps and narrative on James Monroe, his family, and Westmoreland County, the site's cultural and natural history was chronicled. Evaluation of opportunities and constraints were performed in conjunction with potential program and site issues. Composed within the body of a descriptive narrative, the produced document includes pertinent mappings, proposed plans and vignettes.

 

Special Factors: The site of James Monroe's birth affords a distinct opportunity for interpreting the overlapping conditions of both cultural and natural histories. This master planning process will serve as a catalyst for defining how the site is used in the future as part of the public domain. While the life of James Monroe will serve literally as the structural and symbolic spine of the site, the place will also be defined by the continuous transformation and evolution of the forest and meadows, the fluctuation s of light and weather, the cycles of seasons, and by the way people engage it: daily, seasonally, and across generations.

Present Condition of Monroe Birthplace Park 2007

Significance: The site can be a model of how to build and maintain development respectful to its ecosystem. Low impact recreational activities proposed are in keeping with the ecological conservation efforts and program of the park. Reclaimed and recycled building materials are proposed for pavilions, boardwalks, signs, and edging. The James Monroe Memorial Foundation may seek to utilize 18th Century wood and material to reconstruct the Farm house, kitchen and Barn. Eventually the farmhouse and the visitor center will contain artifacts related to James Monroe or his era.

 

The emphasis of storm water management on site could play an important role in educating developers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed on the importance of water and habitat conservation. Creating demonstration plots for sustainable forestry provides a useful education tool while making the site visible to science -based researchers. Protecting and preserving all resources associated with James Monroe's birth is beneficial for the enjoyment and education of the public. These long-term plans would be an important tool for tying in the local community with state and nation wide education programs.

 

Westmoreland County Statement: The James Monroe Birthplace Park Master Plan provides a vision that creates a long-term strategy for the future development of a historical public park. The plan allocates space to meet all programmatic goals, circulation and parking, preservation of historic and natural areas, and interprets the life of James Monroe while giving the visitor the best possible experience. The landscape architect exceeded our objective by reaching out to the local community through incorporating a wide range of educational and research initiatives. The plan is a firm guide for the County to pursue a renewal of the site.