James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library
I recently stumbled across the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library quite by accident. I stopped to visit the Masonic cemetery next door and notice a large Entrance sign sitting adjacent the cemetery. The Museum is a nondescript brick building that is very easy to pass by without a second glance, but you would make a big mistake by doing that. This article is only about my experience at the museum, there is no way that I could adequately cover all of the contributions that President Monroe made to this country.
History of the Building
As you must have already figured out if you’ve read any of my other articles, I’m a huge history lover so finding treasure troves like this make me extremely happy. The building that houses the Museum was initially thought to be the actual building where President Monroe had practiced law, but after thorough research it was determined that the age of the building did not match the time-frame that he would have been occupying the building. It is believed that his law office either stood on that spot before, or in very close proximity. Although the building was not the actual building that President Monroe used, the building is still extremely old, dating from the early 1800’s.
Preserving the Legacy
In 1927, the building was set to be destroyed, but Monroe’s great-granddaughter, Rose de Chine Gouverneur Hoes, purchased the building and opened the museum. That, of course is a very simplistic way to describe the opening of the Museum; there were many other contributors and associates that assisted in what the Museum and Memorial Library has become. The items and artifacts within the building are legitimate; the Monroe descendants have graciously continued to contribute artifacts that have been handed down through generations of the Monroe family so that the public can enjoy them. The museum has detailed information about the contributions made by the family on their website, it’s really amazing how involved his descendants were in preserving his, and the First Lady’s legacy.
When I first entered the museum I was greeted by the docents who were extremely friendly and knowledgeable. Luckily I was visiting during the week, so I had the museum almost completely to myself. The amount of artifacts that are housed in the museum is staggering. I have not seen a collection quite like that before. Most collections have a few letters or maybe one or 2 pieces of furniture; that was not the case here. There are so many bookcases filled with books from President Monroe’s private collection. I felt like I was in the middle of the library in the Citadel (GoT reference) .
Not only are there the President’s personal artifacts, there are other items of American history. President Monroe fought in many battles during the American Revolution, and was even injured in December 1776. There are several items on display that the President carried into battle, as well as items of clothing. The room that contains those items also has a detailed film on the President’s life.
The White House
One of the items that is on display (and my favorite) is the literal key to the front door of the White House. In 1814, the White House, then called the Presidential Mansion, was burned by the British, and it wasn’t until 1817 that President Monroe was able to move into the building that we now know as the White House. The President and the First Lady were pivotal in decorating and furnishing the White House, using much of their own furnishings that they had collected on their travels around the world. Many of their furnishings still sit in the White House today.
Throughout the museum there are pieces that had been a part of the furnishings in the White House; not re-creations, but the actual pieces. Even though visitors aren’t allowed to touch the items, you can get pretty darn close. For those of us that aren’t able to visit the White House, that is the closest that we would ever be to Presidential furnishings.
This short article was only a tiny fragment of what is available to the public to experience. I highly encourage everyone to visit the Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia. If you can’t visit, take a look at the website; there is a wealth of information on the site alone. The impact that President Monroe had on our nation and world relations is still felt to this day. The Museum and Memorial Library is a fitting tribute to a man that did so much. As always, thank you for following along on my Adventuring journey and I would love to hear your feedback.
Until the next adventure,
Other websites of interest:
White House History: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/bios/james-monroe
The History Channel: https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/james-monroe
James Monroe Museum: https://jamesmonroemuseum.umw.edu/