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MTVERN_070924_010.JPG: Bowling Green:
For visitors at Mount Vernon, the wide expanse of the bowling green created a foreground for the Mansion, evoking the naturalistic style of English landscapes so appreciated by George Washington. Its symmetry, however, also reflects his enduring admiration for formal landscaping. From the Mansion, the bowling green opened upon a broader vista to the west. The grass was regularly cut with scythes and smoothed with a roller to keep the surface firm and even.
MTVERN_070924_015.JPG: George Washington's Landscape Design:
"The whole plantation, the garden, and the rest proved well that a man born with natural taste may guess a beauty without having seen the model. The General has never left America... but it seems as if he had copied the best samples of the grand old homesteads of England."
-- Julian Niemcewicz, a Polish guest at Mount Vernon, June 1798.
Mount Vernon's gardens and grounds were a masterful mix of formal and naturalistic design styles originating in England. In this transitional form, Washington borrowed strict symmetry and simple geometric lines from the earlier school while taking advantage of the natural beauty of the American landscape. This is an overall order to the wilderness areas, vistas, groves, and curving walkways that reflects Washington's sense of balance and design.
Before building his greenhouse, George Washington studied several designs, finally adapting a plan from a similar structure in Baltimore, Maryland. He and his gardeners tested their horticultural skills by cultivating plants exotic to Virginia. The greenhouse provided a winter refuge for tropical and semi-tropical plants such as coffee, orange, lemon, lime, sago palm, and aloe. During the warm growing season, these plants were kept in tubs outside in the garden. The original greenhouse burned down in 1835. The present structure was rebuilt on the original site in 1951.
MTVERN_070924_072.JPG: Greenhouse Slave Quarters
MTVERN_070924_076.JPG: Greenhouse Slave Quarters:
"The sun never caught (George Washington) in bed, and he was unwilling it should find any of his people sleeping..." -- From an interview with a former Mount Vernon slave, 1838.
About a third of the slave population worked at the Mansion House Farm and lived in the wings of the greenhouse, in cabins across the lane, and in nearby outbuildings. These structures housed mostly family, along with some single and widowed adults and skilled workers whose families lived in outlying farms. One family at Mansion House Farm was made up of Isaac, a carpenter, his wife Kitty, a dairy maid, and their nine daughters. Four spaces of similar size in the greenhouse quarters housed such families.
MTVERN_070924_084.JPG: Stove Room:
The corner fireplace heated the greenhouse on the opposite side of this building. Hot air from the fire was conducted through flues and channeled under the greenhouse floor. In this way, the delicate plants and potted trees in the greenhouse were kept warm at the roots.
This was thought to be an improvement over earlier systems which conveyed heat behind walls and under windows.
MTVERN_070924_088.JPG: Stove room
"... have the Ice house prepared for, and well filled, and rammed, when Ice is formed. It will be of immense importance to me when I get home."
-- George Washington to manager William Pearce, December 4, 1796.
Before mechanical refrigeration, ice was used to preserve perishable food in addition to creating delicacies such as ice cream. in the winter, slaves cut pieces of ice from the frozen Potomac River. They tossed the ice into a brick pit lined with wood. The "house" was merely a cover for the pit. The ice was periodically pounded into one solid mass and packed in straw to slow the melting process. When ice was needed, it was hacked off with an ax. Although this particular structure was built after George Washington's death, his original icehouse, located less than 100 yards from the river, was used in the same fashion.
MTVERN_070924_112.JPG: Shoemaker's Shop
MTVERN_070924_114.JPG: Shoemaker's Shop
The shoemaker played a critical role on the plantation by maintaining the workers' shoes so that no labor was lost. Footwear was often purchased from outside manufacturers one pair of shoes so that no labor was lost. Footwear was often purchased from outside manufacturers; one pair of shoes was issued annually to each slave. However, the shoemaker kept busy throughout the year performing repairs. The shoemaker, who might have been a hired white artisan or a slave trained on the plantation, also worked on saddles and other leather goods.
MTVERN_070924_187.JPG: Clerk's Quarters:
"To copy and record letters and other Papers, to keep Books... and an account of articles received from an delivered to the Farms... would constitute your principal employment."
-- George Washington to Albin Rawlins, February 12, 1798.
After his retirement from the presidency, George Washington hired Albin Rawlins to perform clerical duties and act as his business agent, especially when travel was required. Rawlins, a bachelor, found this room and the left above to be sufficient living space. The quarters were convenient to the Mansion study, from which Washington could quickly summon his clerk, and the Mansion cellar where the white servants' dining room was located.
MTVERN_070924_189.JPG: Clerk's Quarters
MTVERN_070924_192.JPG: Paint Cellar
MTVERN_070924_196.JPG: Paint Cellar:
"Let the Oil and paint be put into some secure Cellar..."
-- George Washington to manager William Pierce, December 4, 1796.
Maintaining the Mansion and outbuilding with fresh coats of paint was a continual, labor-intensive process. Tom Davis was one slave often called upon by George Washington to maintain the red roofs and white siding of Mount Vernon's many buildings. Paint was an expensive commodity in 18th-century America and was imported in powder form which was then hand-mixed with linseed just before use. When not in use, the oils and leftover mixed paints were stored here for safekeeping.
A large supply of meat was necessary to feed the Washington family, their many guests, and the large number of slaves and servants at Mount Vernon. Small animals such as fowls and fish could be eaten before they spoiled, but larger animals, including hogs and cows, had to be preserved to last through the winter months. After slaves salted or pickled the meat, they hung it on the rails inside the smokehouse above the smoldering fire set into the pit in the center of the building. For long-term storage after smoking, the meats remained hanging or were packed in barrels filled with ashes.
MTVERN_070924_221.JPG: Wash House:
Vina and Dolsey were two of the slave women who worked as many as six days a week washing the laundry that belonged to the Washingtons, their guests, and some farm managers. They boiled water in a hot-water stove and plunged the laundry into the steaming water. The women then hand-scrubbed the fabric with soap made of lye and animal fat, rinsed the laundry, and dried it in the laundry yard. The washerwomen used irons heated in the fire or a large wooden mangle to press the laundry. It was a hot, dangerous, and difficult job; the slaves had to carry twenty-five to thirty buckets of water for each load of laundry.
MTVERN_070924_223.JPG: Wash House
MTVERN_070924_230.JPG: Riding Chair:
As a young man, George Washington acquired a riding chair similar to the 18th century example you see here (alongside a modern reproduction). Popular in America and England, riding chairs could travel country lanes and back roads more easily than bulkier four-wheeled chariots and coaches. Riding chairs were relatively inexpensive in comparison with other wheeled vehicles, and the form was used by members of all social classes as an easy way to travel through rough Virginia terrain.
MTVERN_070924_233.JPG: Riding Chair
MTVERN_070924_244.JPG: Washington's Vehicles
George Washington had several horse-drawn vehicles. Slaves, including Joe, a drive, and Jack, a wagoner, took care of the Mount Vernon vehicles. Travel during the 18th century was difficult. Poorly maintained roads meant that even short journeys were hazardous and that vehicles wore out quickly. Coach houses accommodated the variety of vehicles which Washington used for travel, including a small coach similar to the one you see here. Both this example of Washington's coach was made by well-known Philadelphia carriage makers David and Francis Clark.
MTVERN_070924_247.JPG: Washington's Vehicles
MTVERN_070924_291.JPG: The original entrance to the mansion grounds was the gate in the far distance. George changed this because he liked the idea of building suspense for incoming travelers.
MTVERN_070924_317.JPG: This tulip poplar was actually planted by George Washington in 1785
MTVERN_070924_357.JPG: Salt house
MTVERN_070924_365.JPG: Spinning Room:
"Spinning should go forward with all possible dispatch, as we shall have nothing else to depend upon if these disputes [with England] continue..."
-- George Washington to manager Lund Washington, August 20, 1775.
Textile production was vital to achieving self-sufficiency at Mount Vernon. George Washington practiced selective breeding of sheep to produce better quality wool, grew flax and hemp for making linen cloth and rope, and experimented with cultivating cotton and silk. While slaves and hired weavers were able to produce basic textiles for plantation use, it was still necessary to import finer materials from England for the Washington's table and clothing.
MTVERN_070924_369.JPG: Spinning Room
MTVERN_070924_378.JPG: Overseer's Quarters:
Because of his extended absences from Mount Vernon, George Washington relied on his overseers to help keep his estates running smoothly day-to-day. Each of Washington's five farms had its own overseer who managed free and enslaved labor, supervised livestock and crops, and submitted weekly work reports. In 1799, Mansion House overseer Roger Farrell also agreed to supervise the annual harvest of fish, keep Washington supplied with mutton, lamb, veal, and firewood, and repair fences around the estate, among other tasks. In return, Farrell received an annual wage of $133.33 plus "board, bed lodging, and washing."
MTVERN_070924_383.JPG: Overseer's Quarters
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Wikipedia Description: Mount Vernon
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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.
The early history of the estate at Little Hunting Creek is separate from that of the home, which was not erected until 1741-42 and occupied for the first time in 1743. In 1674, John Washington and Nicholas Spencer came into possession of the land from which Mount Vernon plantation would be carved. When John Washington died in 1677, his son Lawrence, George Washington's grandfather, inherited his father's stake in the property. In 1690, he agreed to formally divide the estimated 5,000 acre (20 kmē) estate with the heirs of Nicholas Spencer. The Spencers took the southern half bordering Dogue Creek (originally called "Epsewasson" in the September 1674 land grant from Lord Culpeper, after the former name of the creek), leaving the Washingtons the portion along Little Hunting Creek.
Upon Lawrence Washington's death, he left the property to his daughter, Mildred. In 1726, at the urging of her brother Augustine Washington (George Washington's father), Mildred sold him the Potomac River estate. In 1735, Augustine Washington moved his young, second family to the estate, settling into a 'Quarter' alongside Little Hunting Creek. In 1738, Augustine recalled his eldest son Lawrence (George's half-brother) home from The Appleby School in England and set him up on the family's Little Hunting Creek tobacco plantation, thereby allowing Augustine to move his family back to Fredericksburg at the end of 1739.
In 1739, Lawrence, having reached his 'majority' (age 21), began buying up parcels of land from the adjoining Spencer tract, beginning with the land around the Grist Mill on Dogue Creek. In the summer of 1740, Lawrence received a coveted officer's commission in the Regular British Army, and made preparations to go off to war in the Caribbean with the newly formed American Regiment. Part of his preparations included ensuring his father had legal control over the tracts Lawrence had purchased from Spencer. While he was away at war (the War of Jenkins' Ear, 1739-1743), Lawrence wrote to his father from Jamaica in May 1741, that, should he survive the war, he intended to make his home in the town of Fredericksburg, building a town home on one of the three lots he owned there.
At this same time, the Spencer family was in a legal dispute over additional land sales to Lawrence's neighbors. To adjudicate the boundary line dispute, a general court for Prince William County ordered a new survey of the entire 5,000 acre (20 kmē) Washington-Spencer land grant. The surviving map of that 1741 survey, a plat, by County Surveyor Robert Brooke, revealed the estate had been grossly mis-measured back in April 1669, and it contained only about 4,200 acres (17 kmē), not the 5,000 acres conveyed in the 1674 land grant. The gross mis-measurement can be attributed to the fact that the property was bounded on three sides by water, and that neither the River nor the two creeks ran straight. Pursuant to the Culpeper land grant, the original 1669 surveyor was charged with estimating an area of 5,000 acres (20 kmē) and then blazing a straight-line "back" boundary along a tree line between the winding courses of Dogue Run and Little Hunting Creek. More importantly, this surviving May 1741 property survey by Brooke reveals that the location of the present-day mansion house was then vacant, with the Washingtons depicted as having their Quarter alongside Little Hunting Creek (as was shown on a similar, larger-scale Potomac River survey of 1738).
Upon receiving word of Lawrence's intent to live in Fredericksburg, Augustine Washington appears to have undertaken to erect a modest farm house on the vacant bluff overlooking the Potomac River (where the mansion house now sits) in 1741-42. It is estimated Lawrence received news of his father's plans in late 1741, while at Jamaica, and presumably wrote back instructing his father to call the new home "Mount Vernon" in honor of Captain Lawrence Washington's commanding officer, Vice Admiral Edward Vernon (then regarded as the greatest military hero of the age in England.) In early August 1742, the place name "Mount Vernon" first appears in a surviving letter, penned by Lawrence's Potomac River neighbor, William Fairfax, of Belvoir. Lawrence Washington returned from the war in late 1742, buried his father in April 1743, married into the Fairfax family and took up residence at his "Mount Vernon" in July 1743. By the late 1740s Lawrence undertook an expansion of the home Augustine had built for him.
Upon Lawrence's untimely death in July 1752, his will provided that his widow should own a life estate in Mount Vernon, with the remainder interest falling to Lawrence's beloved half-brother, George. George Washington was already living at Mount Vernon and probably managing the plantation. Lawrence's widow, Anne Fairfax, promptly remarried into the Lee family and moved out. Upon the death of Anne and Lawrence's only surviving child in 1754, George, as executor of his brother's estate, arranged to lease "Mount Vernon" that December. Later, he bought his sister-in-law's life estate and became owner of the property. In 1757, George began the first of two major additions and improvements to the home. The second expansion was begun shortly before the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. On those occasions he entirely rebuilt the main house atop the original foundations, doubling its size each time. The great majority of the work was performed by slaves and artisans. It is important to note that while he twice rebuilt the home, George never changed its patriotic British name.
Upon Anne Fairfax Washington Lee's death in 1761, George was the only claimant to the Mount Vernon estate. From 1759 until the American Revolutionary War, Washington, who at the time aspired to become a prominent agriculturist, operated the estate as five separate farms. Washington took a scientific approach to farming and kept extensive and meticulous records of both labor and results. One of his most successful ventures was the establishment of a distillery; he became one of the new nation's largest, if not the largest, distillers of whiskey.
Following his service in the war, Washington returned to Mount Vernon and in 1785-1786 spent a great deal of effort improving the landscaping of the estate. It is estimated that during his two terms as President of the United States (1789-1797) Washington spent 434 days in residence at Mount Vernon. After his presidency, Washington tended to repairs to the buildings, socializing, and further gardening. The remains of George and Martha Washington, as well as other family members, are entombed on the grounds.
After Washington's death in 1799 , plantation ownership passed through a series of descendants who lacked either the will or the means to maintain the property. After trying unsuccessfully for five years to restore the estate, John Augustine Washington offered it for sale in 1848. The Commonwealth of Virginia and United States governments declined to buy the home and estate.
In 1860, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, under the leadership of Ann Pamela Cunningham, acquired the mansion and a portion of the land for $200,000, rescuing it from a state of disrepair and neglect. The estate served as neutral ground for both sides during the American Civil War, although fighting raged across the nearby countryside. Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 19, 1960 and later administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The mansion has been restored by the Association (without accepting any state or Federal funds), 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.
Mount Vernon is open seven days a week, every day of the year, including holidays and Christmas. Visitors are invited to tour the Mansion house and more than a dozen outbuildings including the slave quarters, kitchen, stables, and greenhouse. Stroll four different gardens, hike the Forest Trail, and explore the George Washington: Pioneer Farmer site, a four-acre working farm that includes a re-creation of Washington's 16-sided treading barn. George and Martha Washington rest in peace in the tomb where wreathlaying ceremonies are held daily, and scouts are welcome to participate. The Slave Memorial and Burial Ground is nearby. George Washington worked tirelessly to expand his plantation from 2,000 acres to 8,000 and the mansion house from six rooms to twenty one.
The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association purchased Mount Vernon from the Washington family in 1858 and opened the estate to the public in 1860. Since that time, nearly 80 million visitors have toured Washington's home. Mount Vernon is independent of the government and no tax dollars are expended to support the 500-acre estate, its educational programs or activities.
English boxwoods, taken from cuttings sent by Maj. Gen. Henry Lee III "Light Horse Harry" (Governor of Virginia and father of Robert E. Lee), were planted in 1786 by George Washington and now crowd the entry path. Cuttings of these same boxwoods are now on sale at the Mount Vernon gift shop for $8.00 dollars or they can ship.
A museum dedicated to the life and death of George Washington is on the grounds. The museum has George Washington's survey equipment, weapons, and clothing, as well as dentures worn by the first President.
On March 30, 2007, Washington’s Mount Vernon estate officially opened a reconstruction of Washington’s distillery. This fully functional replica received special legislation from the Virginia General Assembly to produce up to 5,000 gallons of whiskey annually, for sale only at the Mount Vernon gift shop. The construction of this operational distillery cost $2.1 M and is located on the exact site of Washington's original distillery, a short distance from his mansion on the Potomac River. Frank Coleman, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council that funded the reconstruction, said the distillery “will become the equivalent of a national distillery museum” and serve as a gateway to the American Whiskey Trail.
In October 2006, following a $110 million fund raising campaign, two new buildings designed by GWWO, Inc./Architects were opened as venues for additional background on George Washington and the American Revolution. The Ford Orientation Center introduces visitors to George Washington and Mount Vernon with displays and an 18-minute film about Washington's life entitled "We Fight to be Free." The Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center houses many artifacts related to Washington along with multimedia displays and further films using modern entertainment technology.
On November 7, 2007, President George W. Bush hosted French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a general press conference on the front lawn of Mt. Vernon following Sarkozy's address to a joint session of Congress earlier the same day, briefing the press on the two leaders' earlier meetings.
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