Finally registered: Monroe Hill makes national list

The only building on Grounds that predates the University has just been named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Monroe Hill, home of James Monroe before he moved to Highland (now Ash Lawn-Highland), won the National Park Service's blessing June 18.

According to the application for the Register, Monroe's home and subsequent additions were the core of an 800-acre Albemarle County farm that the newly elected U.S. senator called his "lower plantation." The first building was a law office built for James Monroe in 1790, the year he was elected to the U.S. Senate. A one-story house followed.

In 1814, two years before his election as America's fifth president, Monroe sold the property to John Perry, one of Jefferson's builders, who promptly enlarged the house to its current Greek Revival appearance. Perry sold the property to the University, which opened in March 1825 with 68 students, according to The Corner, a history by Coy Barefoot.

"They took Perry's forty acres, at $12 per acre," Jefferson's overseer is quoted in Barefoot's book.

Two six-room little ranges– not unlike Thomas Jefferson's more famous nearby Range– were added in 1848 as student housing.

UVA now calls the complex, which includes an array of 1920s brick dorms facing Emmet Street, "Brown College at Monroe Hill." Modeled on the colleges and clubs of Harvard and Princeton, Brown College has its own dining hall, and its "principal" lives in the main house.

The Register, an honorary designation for the nation's most historically significant properties, does not tell the owner what it can do with its property.

Monroe Hill as John Perry enlarged it.