Historic Presidential Pathway

Aerial photo Morven Farm

A recent article in UVA Today chronicles a $35,000 planning grant from the Dominion Foundation to explore a historic trail between Morven Farm, James Monroe’s Highland and Thomas Jefferson’s home and plantation, Monticello. As the author Jane Kelly writes, the grant will support "faculty and students from several disciplines, including architecture, law and environmental science, will investigate the historic landscape, land use and trail alignments, as well as legal and institutional instruments involving public access, liability and maintenance." As part of this effort, Rob McGinnis, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and Fellow with the Center for Cultural Landscapes, will focus his spring course LAR5230: Cultural Landscapes, on researching, interpreting, and examining a potential "future link [of the historic trail] with the Saunders-Monticello trail, a two-mile recreational trail that is made available to the public free of charge by Monticello." You can read an excerpt of the article below and the full piece here

Organizers say the new planning experiences will be invaluable to students as they enter professional careers like law and landscape design.

Morven Farm, a 3,000-acre property owned by the UVA Foundation, “provides a unique location to examine the link between the history of the Piedmont region and career opportunities in the modern world,” said Stewart Gamage, who directs programs at the property. The trail traces its 4,000-year history to a pathway created by Monacan tribes who used the Morven property – a tract initially identified by European settlers as “Indian Camp” – as a seasonal hunting ground. Used by Native Americans and former U.S. presidents, the trail also provided a means of transportation and communication for free and enslaved families and servants. In 1795, Jefferson purchased the Morven property for his colleague and former secretary, William Short. Jefferson and Short experimented with various forms of crop rotation and innovative sustainable practices on small tenant farms. 

“This trail is an important part of our state’s rich history,” said Hunter A. Applewhite, president of the Dominion Foundation. “We are proud to partner with UVA in this unique opportunity to educate students.” “Morven has been, and continues to be, an extraordinary teaching tool for the University,” said Jeffrey W. Legro, UVA’s vice provost for global affairs, who also oversees Morven. “This support from Dominion will enable us to explore the rich history of the property and examine future connections with our other partners in the Presidential Precinct.” The non-profit Presidential Precinct alliance includes UVA, the College of William & Mary, Morven, Monticello, Highland and James Madison’s Montpelier.