Mount Vernon Research Blog

                                                                Mount Vernon
A view of Mount Vernon from the front.
            Throughout history there have been numerous plantation homes that once marveled travelers, and that towered over the corn and cotton fields of the Deep South.  Unfortunately, throughout the course of time and events, some of these plantation homes have burned to the ground, been abandoned to rot, or have been demolished. Thankfully, one of the plantation homes that stand out amongst the others that survived ultimate destruction is the famous home of America’s first president, George Washington. His celebrated home Mount Vernon, was spared during the destructive Civil War and stands tall today as one of America’s most historically significant homes. Mount Vernon’s construction began in the early 1750’s, although it took a number of years to complete. It was Washington’s home for the later years of his life where both he and his wife Martha lived. Washington enjoyed being at Mount Vernon and in a letter to David Stuart, Washington states, “I can truly say I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the Seat of Government by the Officers of State and the Representatives of every Power in Europe.” Like Thomas Jefferson, Washington took pleasure in being at his home rather than dealing with political affairs but being  a successful leader, he put his personal preferences aside to better serve his nation. After Washington died, the estate was passed down to his relatives for several generations, but during this time financial issues among his relatives caused the estate declined rapidly. In the 1860’s, it became clear to the people that this property should be preserved because of its historical significance. Taking control of the Mount Vernon estate in the 1860’s, what is now referred to as the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, has helped to restore and preserve Mount Vernon to the state that it may have been in while Washington made it his home.
            George Washington wasn’t only America’s first president, but he was also an incredible individual outside of politics. He immediately acquired land and made himself a home. His father had a house built on the property, which George inherited. According to the article Notes on the Early History of Mount Vernon, “Augustine Washington, father of George, removed his family from their first home in Westmoreland County to his Hunting Creek Plantation, later called Mount Vernon, sometime prior to November, 1735, and continued in residence there for several years.” George Washington expanded the house three times. He owned 2,000 acres of land and his father’s cottage when the land was passed down to him. The estate began rather small, and just two expansions later, it is now a three-story estate with Necessaries and a slave house. Washington, unlike most other slave owners, had his slaves stay in one large building rather than many small ones. Since the house is about eight miles from the nearest city, in the 1700’s it was far and took many hours to get to.  Since it was such an extensive journey to the house during that time period, it’s rare that a visitor or group of visitors would not stay the night. For this reason, there are over twenty well-decorated guest rooms.
            The design of Mount Vernon is remarkable yet frustrating because records of its construction are incomplete. Many of the surviving documents are merely sketches by Washington himself, and there are even debates about whether or not fragments of his father’s original house remain inside of Mount Vernon. Naturally, the house is no longer in its original state. Through years of different owners, the layout of the house has changed in different subtle ways. Restoration and preservation have helped to make the mansion as original as possible but it is nearly impossible to bring the mansion back to its original layout during Washington’s lifetime, especially without proper documentation. Despite the fact that the layout and design of Mount Vernon will never be completely identical to how it was during Washington’s lifetime, The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has restored the mansion to a respectable preserved state. One unique aspect of the house that is identical to Washington’s time is the colors of the rooms. Washington believed that bold colors added to the experience of the visitors. Deep blues and greens stand out in the rooms which make them entertaining to pass through. Mount Vernon remains one of the most historically significant mansions in the country to this day.
Stephen E. Ambrose mentions of Washington, "Of the nine presidents who owned slaves, only Washington freed his." Unlike many other slave-owners, George Washington had his slaves stay together in one large home rather than separating them in many small ones. This is the front of the slave home at Mount Vernon.
            One obvious reason that Mount Vernon remains important to our nation’s history is because it was home to America’s first official president. However, the fact that the mansion survived destruction during the Civil War makes it significant in itself. Preserving America’s history is important because the time period in which Washington lived and thrived is long gone, and can never be taken back. Restoring Mount Vernon and making it one of the most historically important sites in America has definitely shed light on Washington’s importance to America. Mount Vernon remains and will undoubtedly always remain an important structure for tourists, and those seeking knowledge about America’s first president and his home.

The kitchen at Mount Vernon. Most kitchens in  this time period were located outside of the house to lower the risk of fire. If a fire did occur, it would burn down the kitchen rather than the entire house.

Me in front of the “Necessary” sign at Mount Vernon. Necessaries were outside bathrooms. There were four located on the property.

George Washington’s view from the backyard of Mount Vernon.

-- Mollie DeMoor

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