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Past Visit: Mount Vernon, Virginia

Written by Steve Dowling on 2012-01-30

Past Visit: Mount Vernon, Virginia

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Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, was the plantation home of the first President of the United States, George Washington. The mansion is built of wood in neoclassical Georgian architectural style, and the estate is located on the banks of the Potomac River. Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and is open every day of the year.

When Augustine Washington owned the estate, it was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation after the nearby Little Hunting Creek. Lawrence Washington, George's older half-brother, inherited the estate and changed its name to Mount Vernon in honor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon famed for the War of Jenkin's Ear. Vernon had been Lawrence's commanding officer in the British Royal Navy, and Lawrence greatly admired him. When George Washington inherited the property he retained the name.

The mansion has been restored by the Association, independent of the US government, with no tax dollars expended to support the 500 acre estate, its educational programs or activities. The restoration is complete with period furniture and decor, and today serves as a popular tourist attraction. The estate is also well known for its exceptional landscaping and ancillary buildings. The beds are very interesting, as they are so much smaller than beds today.

The property consists of 500 acres, with the main buildings, including the house, located near the riverfront. English boxwoods, were planted in 1786 by George Washington and now crowd the entry path. The main homestead area is skirted by a carriage road with a large bowling green located in the center. To each side of the green is a garden, contained by a red brick wall. These Colonial Revival gardens grew the household's vegetables, fruit and other perishable items for consumption. The upper garden, located to the north, is bordered by the greenhouse. The Botanical Garden; the Museum, dedicated to the life and death of George Washington is on the grounds and contains George Washington's survey equipment, weapons, and clothing, as well as dentures worn by the first President; ice house; overseers quarters; spinning room; salt house and gardener's house are between the garden and the house.

The lower garden, or southern garden, is skirted by the storehouse and clerk's quarters, smokehouse, wash house, laundry yard, and coach house. A paddock and stable are on the southern border of the garden. The old tomb is located along the river, while the new tomb, containing George and Martha Washington, is located near the fruit garden with the slave burial ground just off this path. A Forest Trail runs along the property. The house was built in phases, as the off-center main door makes evident. The structure once contained the northern portion of the house until it was expanded several times in its history.

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