Three Friends: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe

Dive into history as you explore the legacies of three early American presidents, discovering historic architecture, period music, stunning artwork and a living-history presentation.
Rating (5)
Program No. 9113RJ
4 days
Starts at
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4 days
3 nights
8 meals
3 B 2 L 3 D
Registration, Orientation, Introduction to Three Presidents
Hyatt Place Charlottesville

Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Available from 3:00 p.m. Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table from 4:00-5:00 pm to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Indicated times are approximate; program activities and schedules may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.

Dinner: In a private dining room at the hotel, enjoy a meal that includes entrée, side dishes, and beverage choices including coffee, tea, water. Additional beverages available for purchase.

Evening: With our local expert, get a lively and detailed introduction to three Presidents from Virginia: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Learn fascinating details of their public and private lives as well as their friendships and their world. Explore the activities and contributions of the “Founding Fathers” to America from the colonial era through the Revolutionary War and development of the young republic from the Constitution to the Monroe Doctrine.

Society to Our Taste, UVA, Monticello, Monroe Insights
Hyatt Place Charlottesville

Activity note: The field trip to UVA includes an extended walk on the Grounds which are terraced with steps between levels. Participants who do not want to negotiate the steps can explore the top terrace around the Rotunda until the walk concludes. Monticello is on the top of a steep hill, reached by a trolley ride. The house is accessible, but parts of the grounds are steep and/or reached only by long stairs. Participants can select those areas where they will be comfortable during the independent time.

Breakfast: At the hotel, enjoy a selection of foods at the Kitchen Skillet breakfast buffet. Items will vary throughout the week, but may include French toast, pancakes, waffles, fresh-made breakfast sandwiches, hot oatmeal with toppings, whole and fresh cut fruit, yogurt with toppings, muffins, cereals, juices, and milk. Coffee, water and tea available.

Morning: Gain perspectives from a local expert on the social order and lifestyles of Virginia’s landed gentry — including our three Presidents — and “a society to our taste.” Learn about life on plantations and estates far from the colonial hub of Williamsburg, Jefferson’s conceptions of the ideal society, and how he encouraged and supported his friends in joining that rare circle. We will also have an illustrated overview of the University of Virginia (UVA). Next we embark via motorcoach on a field trip to UVA, founded by Jefferson in 1819. He considered the creation of this “academical village” one of his greatest achievements. Led by an expert, we’ll walk through the Grounds to observe the impressive Rotunda and the Lawn, both designed by Jefferson. See Jefferson's vision of higher education as it unfolds in the layout of the classroom and residential buildings, student housing on the Lawn and Ranges, still in use today. Take in the gardens, serpentine wall, and pavilions, all part of Jefferson's design and a model for university design throughout the country. At the conclusion of our exploration, we take our motorcoach to Monticello.

Lunch: At Monticello, we will have box lunches including a sandwich, sides, dessert, and water. You may sit indoors or outdoors (weather permitting) with views of the surrounding forest.

Afternoon: If you knew nothing else about Jefferson and then visited Monticello, you would recognize the man as a genius. The house and gardens were designed, redesigned, built, and rebuilt over more than 40 years. Today, it is considered an “autobiographical masterpiece.” Led by an expert, we will have a guided 45-60 minute exploration (including considerable standing time), walking through this exceptional mansion where you see the architecture he favored and some of the many innovative contrivances he devised. The furnishings, art, books, gadgets, and objects such as the 7-day clock and the alcove bed reveal Jefferson's unique and inquiring mind. It is astonishing to comprehend that one man conceived all of this. Leaving the house, you will have free time to walk through the extensive kitchen and ornamental gardens, and the Jefferson family cemetery where you see what he had carved onto his memorial stone.

Dinner: At a local restaurant a short walk from the hotel; includes choice of entrée, plus dessert and non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase

Evening: We’ll have an in-depth look at our fifth president, James Monroe. While he may be the least well-known of the early Virginia presidents, he had a long career of public service that began when he left the College of William and Mary to serve under Washington in the American Revolution. We’ll examine Monroe’s time as a member of the Virginia legislature and the U. S. Senate and his terms as Virginia governor. We’ll review his Presidency and the issues he faced in addition to the Monroe Doctrine, then wonder at the strange coincidence of his dying on the Fourth of July, five years to the day after the passing of two other founding giants, Jefferson and John Adams.

Plantation Life, Montpelier, Highland, Period Music
Hyatt Place Charlottesville

Activity note: Considerable walking and standing; the round-trip walk between the Visitor Center and Montpelier mansion is about 2/3 mile on a sloping pebble path (no shuttle). The second floor is reachable only by stairs; alternate exhibits on first floor. Education Center provides an alternative for those preferring something less physically demanding. The Highland visit includes a multi-level house with short flights of stairs which can be avoided by going outside and reentering on the lower level.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Before our field trip this morning, we will examine the self-contained world of plantation life where a few lived in comfort supported by the many who labored in the fields and homes under the yoke of slavery. To separate fact from fiction, romanticized mythology from reality, our expert speaker will discuss issues such as family life, education, leisure, and other aspects of the parallel cultures on the plantation. We will also gain a sense of the contrasts between this elaborate and complicated lifestyle and the much simpler homesteads maintained by the vast majority of early American farmers. Next our motorcoach will transport us to Montpelier, home of James and Dolly Madison. Our visit includes a special presentation, "Introduction to the House and Grounds"; guided walk of about an hour with a lot of standing time through the mansion that has recently been restored to its appearance at the time it was occupied by the Madisons; free time for a self-guided exploration of Education Center, grounds and new Visitor Center. The home was owned for over 120 years by the Madison family and you will learn of the three stages of construction during their tenure as well as the various renovations completed by succeeding owners, including the famous DuPont family. The restoration of the house itself took place from 2003-2008 and efforts are now underway to furnish it to reflect its occupation by James and Dolley Madison after his retirement from the Presidency.

Lunch: Eat a delicious box lunch, including sandwich, water, fruit, chips, and cookie, in the Visitor Center’s Courtyard Café adjacent to the DuPont Gallery.

Afternoon: After lunch we will drive through the Piedmont countryside to Highland, home of James Monroe. This small dwelling is an interesting contrast to the stately mansions of Monroe's friends and neighbors. Recent archaeology has determined that the current structure may be a guest residence and that Monroe's home was a much larger nearby building that no longer exists. Information on these finds will be provided during the visit. Discover how the existing house has evolved through the centuries with different owners. Explore the elegantly furnished rooms of this "cabin-castle", including the study and children's room added during the tenure of the Monroes on the plantation from 1799-1828. Stroll the grounds to see the gardens, reconstructed slave quarters, and original Overseer's Cottage while taking in the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Upon return to the hotel via motor coach, we will delight in a lively performance featuring "Violins and Fiddles". A talented musician will not only demonstrate the differing personalities of this single instrument, but will provide an informative commentary on music of the eighteenth century.

Dinner: At a popular restaurant a short walk from the hotel, enjoy a family style dinner with dessert and non-alcoholic beverages; other beverages available for purchase. Share your favorite experiences of the week with your fellow participants at this farewell meal.

Evening: The remainder of the evening is at leisure.

Silent Voices: Women, Slaves, Free Blacks; Meet Col. Monroe

Activity note: The program concludes with two engaging presentations at the hotel for a restful ending before you head home.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We have libraries full of information on the Founding Fathers, but society could not have functioned without those about whom early American history is largely silent. Learn about women whose support was crucial to the social structure, slaves whose muscle and sinew built an agrarian society, and free people of color who struggled to establish their place in a new nation that had declared “all men are created equal.” Rounding out our experience, meet “Colonel Monroe” himself. Engage in a unique conversation with a knowledgeable and talented historical interpreter who provides first-person interaction with James Monroe. This concludes our program. Hotel check-out by noon. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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