Chester Inn

A White House Fit for a President

Just two and a half hours outside of Washington, DC, we’re happy to be “outside the beltway” during this crazy election season. At Chester, we’ve always encouraged our guests to step away from the daily business of life and do a bit of relaxing, take in some history, sample a wine (or four) and unwind. Many ask us about the history of our own “white house,” which was built in 1847. More than being owners, we find a great sense of responsibility and pride in being this generation’s caretakers for such a gorgeous and historically significant place. But we also find ourselves continually entranced by the incredible legacies all around us.

Just last week, we learned more about Highland (formerly called Ashlawn), which is just down the road, in an article¬†published in the Washington Post. Highland was James Monroe’s home–our fifth POTUS. We’ve often wondered why the house was so modest (just two rooms on 535 acres?!), particularly when our friend Mr. Jefferson created the magnificent Monticello a few miles to the north. Apparently we weren’t alone in our confusion. Recent excavations have revealed a much more sizeable foundation in the yard that appears to have been the original Monroe home. The current house appears to have been built much later, during Monroe’s first term in the White House. Details are still coming in, but it does shed new light on an old question. Now owned by the College of William & Mary, Monroe’s alma mater, Highland will likely continue to reveal its secret past in the days to come.

During this election season, however, we might all be wise to take a page from President Monroe’s modest guest house and what it might have said about him as a leader. No fancy gold jets, no massive campaign funds. As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alumnus and current chancellor of William & Mary was quoted as saying, “This new find at Highland will help us to better interpret James Monroe’s historic legacy of duty and non-partisan leadership. [He] is relevant today because of his particular example of leadership, especially in his later years, of holding national interest above party interest.”

In the meantime, for all of you who need a break from Washington politics, Chester is just a quick car ride away.