“Do You Know Who Were the First Five Presidents?”

by The Momma

In the last six weeks or so, we have visited the homes of the first six presidents.  So this amazing song has been stuck in our heads constantly.  Take the time to click that link and watch it.  Your life will be enriched.  🙂

Note: None of these historic homes allow photography inside, so all photos are of the grounds and visitor’s center areas.  Also, as always, hover your cursor over the photos or click on each one to read captions.

#1:  George Washington, Mt. Vernon, VA

We’ve been here multiple times, but we never get enough!  Last time we went, Character Queen was wearing her George Washington costume.  That actually was just a couple days before she first learned about the Marquis de Lafayette at Colonial Williamsburg!

Ha! I found it!  Here they are three years ago at Mount Vernon, during her George Washington obsession, shortly before changing to a Lafayette obsession:



#2:  John Adams, Birthplace and The Old House at Peace Field, MA

We went to Adams National Park when we were in Boston, just because I felt like we should.  We hadn’t particularly studied either of the Presidents Adams, and didn’t know much about either one.  I’m so glad we went though, because, amazingly enough, once you go to their houses, you suddenly know more about them, and your ears perk up more when you hear about them other places.  They were Old Dead Guys to me before (wow, is that terrible to say?!), but now I have a context for each of them.


#3:  Thomas Jefferson, Monticello, VA

This is one that I’ve always heard about and always wanted to visit, but just never made it until today.  It definitely was cool to see his creative inventions around the house.  And I really liked how he had the two long mainly-underground tunnels/hallways for the household work, like the kitchen, smokehouse, washroom, some slave quarters, etc.  That seems much better than the normal approach of having them each in a separate building around the property- at least the people working in them aren’t having to go out in the elements all the time.  However, I was surprised to learn that he was completely broke for years and just kept borrowing more and more money to keep up the lifestyle.  After he died, his family had to sell nearly everything to deal with the massive debt he had accumulated.  He’s a classic example of not being great in everything even if you are truly great in some areas.

(Side note: I bought one of the best brownies I have ever eaten in my life in their cafe!  It was this smores – marshmallow and chocolately goodness decadence.  Amazing!!)


#4:  James Madison, Montpelier, VA

This one is fairly recently a museum, I believe.  They went through a huge effort to get the outside shrunk back to it’s Madison appearance (the duPont family owned it for around a century and tripled its size).  Now they are in process of finishing the interior.  There are lots of photo frames hung on the walls that just have labels in them of what pictures WILL be in place eventually.  There is still a lot of archaeology going on outside, and they’re in process of rebuilding some of the extra buildings on the property.


#5:  James Monroe, Highland, VA

This one is totally different than the others because the house we toured was not the one he lived in.  Apparently, they thought it was, but just in recent months they’ve found archaeological evidence that the current house was built around the 1870s, and his was larger and in not exactly the same location.  The house still tells his story and has some of his personal items, but unlike the other presidential homes, we did not walk in his footsteps.


#6:  John Quincy Adams, Birthplace and The Old House at Peace Field, MA

Well, this is pretty much the same as #2.  Their birthplaces were side-by-side and they both lived in the big house later on in their lives.


(We’ve also been to the home of #7 – Andrew Jackson, but I guess we need to go again because the kids don’t remember it!)

For the most part, each house has a great museum, short movie to teach about the president and others who lived there, and an interactive area for kids.  I love those interactive areas!

What made Character Queen giddy was that each house (except Monroe’s, since it’s not actually his house) has at least one large portrait or bust of Lafayette.  Most have multiple.  Our tour guide at each house had great stories of Lafayette, most of which we had never heard before.

One sweet story took place in 1824, when Lafayette had come back to visit America and tour all 24 states.  When he pulled up to the front of Monticello, Jefferson came out front and the two men – neither as youthful or agile as they used to be – hugged and said, “My dear, Jefferson!” “My dear, Lafayette!”  They were both in tears, and the 300 people standing around watching were also in tears.  I just found a great page about that event, with records of it from seven different sources.

In Madison’s home, the tour guide told us about a slave, James Armistead, who volunteered to spy on the British for Lafayette.  He was very successful, to the point that information he gathered was key in winning the battle of Yorktown.  After the war, he was forced to return to slavery, but thanks to a convincing letter from Lafayette, he was granted his freedom.  He took Lafayette’s last name as his own in honor of the Marquis.  Apparently when Lafayette was in the States in 1824 visiting all his old friends, he made a point to spend some time with this old friend as well.  I just now found this page where you can read more about James Armistead Lafayette.

To me, the amazing thing of visiting all these homes and all these historic locations (Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., etc.) in such a short period of time, is really getting to see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.  We keep hearing the same stories from different angles, and in each location, we learn new details that fit in with what we’ve learned in other spots.  At the same time, we’re reading overviews of all of it in our regular curriculum, which kind of encases it all.  I just kept thinking today how grateful I am that we get to have this experience!



4 thoughts on ““Do You Know Who Were the First Five Presidents?”

  1. It has been so much fun for us to “follow you around”. We listened to an audio book on John Adams on one of our road trips and was so struck by his since of honor and sacrifice. Great to see his family home.


  2. What a great adventure and sense of history to actually be in all those places! I have been only to #1 and #3. Is the harpsichord still at Thomas Jefferson’s house? I was there when I was in high school and loved seeing in person his love of music.


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