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Lionizing Monroe
A history-rich Virginia county makes plans to give the fifth U.S. president his due, while demonstrating ecological stewardship.
By Vernon Mays

In Virginia, where history runs a close second to religion in the passions of the homebred populace, there is no modesty about the role played by its native sons in shaping the nation. But of all the localities that can lay claim to one revered historic figure or another, rural Westmoreland County possesses the mother lode—counting among its historic sites the birthplace of George Washington and the venerable Stratford Hall, home to the family that produced Revolutionary War General “Light Horse Harry” Lee and Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Courtesy Susan Nelson- Warren Byrd Landscape Architects

No less important in the eyes of county officials is the birthplace of James Monroe, president of the United States from 1817 to 1825 and proponent of the Monroe Doctrine, which declared the nations of the Western Hemisphere off-limits to the meddlings of European countries. Yet in spite of earlier efforts to elevate the Monroe birthplace to a national monument, it remains almost invisible. Other than a small bronze plaque denoting the house location and a slightly more distinguished stone obelisk along State Route 205, the site remains largely undeveloped, easily overlooked by motorists. But all that may change, if the county has its way.

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