Mount Vernon
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Mount Vernon, located just south of Alexandria, Virginia, at the southern terminus of the famed George Washington Memorial Parkway, was the plantation home of George Washington. My wife and I recently visited the complex and were amazed at the beauty of the estate and the quality of the museum and educational opportunities.

The estate on which Mt. Vernon would be built was part of the Washington family estate as early as 1674. When George's father, Augustine Washington, lived on the estate, it was known as Little Hunting Creek. Augustine died in 1743, at which point, George's oldest half-brother, Lawrence moved his family to the plantation, which became known as Mount Vernon, after Edward Vernon, a British military office whom Lawrence admired. Lawrence, however, died suddenly in 1752 and left the plantation to his wife and George, who had previously taken up residence at the plantation and was likely serving as its manager. When Lawrence's widow re-married, she sold her interest in the plantation to George in 1757, who became its official sole owner in 1761 after her death.

George led a massive expansion of Mount Vernon (mostly executed by his slaves and employees) and bought up surrounding land. He enlarged the house from one and a halff stories to two and a half stories and built additional wings on to either end of the house. He upgraded the mansion's plain wooden siding with bevel-edged pine blocks in a process called rustification. He added a breathtaking two-storied piazza (porch) which provided stunning views of the wide Potomac River. He added a cupola atop the mansion, which helped cool the house on humid summer days. The entire landscape was meticulously planned to maximize the practicality of the estate and to enhance its natural beauty.

View of the Potomac from the rear of Mount Vernon)

Gardens, walkways, lanes, and outbuildings were carefully situated to create a peaceful setting that blended ingeniously with the natural beauty of the land. Up until the Revolutionary War, George worked the land of the estate and divided it into five working farms over 8,000 acres. Each farm had its own management team of overseers and slaves, livestock, equipment, and buildings. After the war, George continued his work on the estate and grew hemp, cotton, silk, flax, and numerous fruits and vegetables. George considered himself an agriculturalist and liked to experiment with grasses, wheat, grains, and vegetables to produce seeds for his farming operation. In 1786, George planted a huge orchard which provded the estate with fresh peaches, cherries, pears, plums, and apples.

In 1797, he built a whiskey distillery nearby (next to his gristmill), which, for a short time, would become one of the nation's top whiskey producers. In 1799, the distillery produced over 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey.

Both George and Martha Washington died at the estate and are buried on the grounds. Today, Mount Vernon has been carefully restored as is a major tourist destination. The current estate features the mansions, its many outbuildings, gardens, livestock areas, and associated buildings. It features an incredible museum that details the life of George Washington and history of the American Revolution. There are numerous interactive exhibits, artifacts (such as George's dentures), works of art, and exciting films. You can learn all about the various buildings, china, and furniture of Mount Vernon, or, about George's unfortunate dental problems, the details of the last hours of his life, his religious beliefs, or, the loving relationship between he and Martha. Mount Vernon also features several gift shops (where you can buy $5,000 china settings, rare coins and currency, as well as more modestly priced souvenirs) and a full-service restaurant. If you visit Mount Vernon in the summer, make sure you get there early. We had to wait over an hour to enter to the mansion. But even if you don't tour the mansion, there is plenty to do and see.

George Washington hologram at the front of the museum.

 

 

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