President James Monroe Re-enactor

Meet James Monroe at Highland

‘President Monroe’ returns to Highland for special After Hours tours this month

Have you ever wanted to use a time machine, and visit the estate of Founding Father James Monroe, and ask him anything you want? Well, with the absence of time machines, a little bit of imagination might get you exactly what you want.

On four late-afternoons in December, President James Monroe will reappear on the estate he called home for 25 years. Visitors to James Monroe’s Highland who book the special After Hours at Highland, will be greeted by the fifth president of the United States, played by first-person interpreter Beau Robbins.  

The hour-long tours, from 4:30 to 5:30, will take place on December 11, 18, 28 and 29, and groups are limited to 16 participants.

The After Hours at Highland program was initiated four years ago, and has been very successful, according to Marketing and Events Manager at Highland, Jason Woodle.

“When we started this program, it was mostly focused around open hearth cooking,” Woodle said. “It’s the oldest form of cooking that took place over the fireplace. Guests would actively take part in preparing period-appropriate desserts. But, Covid really made us reinvent the program.”

So, what can guests expect this year?

Participants are welcomed in the museum shop, from where they’ll walk up to the main dwelling, accompanied by a tour guide. It’s on that walk, said Woodle, where guests will first meet President Monroe, played by long-time first-interpreter Beau Robbins. The interactions are not scripted, and ‘President Monroe’ is there mostly to answer questions, and give insight into the daily life of the President while at Highland.

“And he will stay in character the entire time,” Woodle said. “He will join the group for the duration. Guests can ask him questions about the President’s life, his home, his presidency, or his travels. And when I say he will remain in character, it’s exactly what that means. We’ve had folks asking the President if it’s ok if they take a selfie, and were greeted with a bewildered look. Because President Monroe has obviously no idea what a selfie is. Needless to say, Robbins does a fantastic job as James Monroe.”

From there, the group will make its way to the main house and the guest house, with President Monroe in tow.

“It’s important to note that guests will be able to see our newly curated and reinterpreted interior exhibit spaces,” Woodle said, including the 1818 guesthouse. “And it’s also important to note that this is not a guided tour per se. There is lots of opportunity for guests to explore the spaces themselves, and the guide, and President Monroe, are there to answer questions. So I would say it’s a good mix of a guided tour and self-exploration.”

When the sun sets on the Blue Ridge Mountains, and darkness takes over, it transforms James Monroe’s Highland to a magical place, said Woodle. 

“I’ve been here for six years, and after hours, in the dark, really makes this a special place,” Woodle said. “And I’m sure visitors will agree. It’s not common to see Highland after hours. And with tasteful lighting around the estate, it really shows you what it would’ve been like to live her all these years ago. It really feels like stepping back in time.”

Spots have already started to fill up for all four events this month, although there are plenty of spots left. Registration is required and guests can reserve a spot here:  https://highland.org/plan-your-visit/tours-and-tickets/purchase-tickets/

Admission is $25 per person, and masks are required inside. 

 For more information about James Monroe’s Highland, visit www.highland.org

See Charlottesville Guide’s Recommended Historical Sites here.