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Oak Hill
Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources

James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth President of the United States, began the construction of Oak Hill, his Loudoun County mansion, between 1820 and 1823 and lived here following his presidency until 1830, the year before he died. For the design of Oak Hill, Monroe sought ideas from both Thomas Jefferson and James Hoban, architect of the White House. The house was constructed by local builder William Benton. Its dominant architectural feature is the unusual pentastyle portico. Oak Hill was visited by Lafayette in 1825 during his tour of America, and it was here that Monroe worked on the drafting of the Monroe Doctrine, a policy aimed to limit European expansion into the Western Hemisphere and assign the United States the role of protector of independent Western nations.

Monroe was born on April 28, 1758, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. After two years at the College of William and Mary, Monroe left in March 1776 to fight in the American Revolution. In 1779, Monroe formed the most important association of his life when he began the study of law under Thomas Jefferson, who was then governor of Virginia. Jefferson came to value Monroe for his persistence, patriotism, and devotion to republican principles. The two men, together with James Madison, formed political and personal bonds that lasted for half a century.

Oak Hill in 1930
Photograph courtesy of Virginia Department of Historic Resources Archives
Monroe soon began a steady accumulation of offices, including acting as a delegate to the Continental Congress (1783-86); a member of the Virginia ratifying convention (1788), where he opposed adoption of the new federal Constitution; U.S. Senator from Virginia (1790-94); minister to France (1794-96); and Governor of Virginia (1799-1802). President Jefferson sent him on a diplomatic mission in 1803 to help Robert R. Livingston negotiate the purchase of New Orleans from the French. The two Americans were astonished when Napoleon I offered to sell the entire Louisiana Territory, which they quickly negotiated to purchase for the United States. After a term serving as President Madison's Secretary of State, Monroe was elected President by an overwhelming majority in 1816, distinguishing his term in office most notably in foreign affairs.

The estate passed out of the family after Monroe's death. The house was increased in size in 1922 by the enlargment of its wings and the addition of terminal porticoes during the ownership of Mr. and Mrs. Frank C. Littleton. Still a private residence, this historic seat is a fitting monument to the last of the "Virginia Dynasty" of presidents.

Oak Hill is located south of Leesburg in Loudon County, VA. The property is a National Historic Landmark. It is a private residence and is not open to the public.


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