The Historical Traveler Visits Mount Vernon

 

 

img_5850Yesterday was a perfect day to visit Mount Vernon – the first President’s home. The father of our country.

Everybody knows our first President of the United States of America, George Washington, is famous for many things including being a decorated General and leader during the American Revolution.

While visiting his beloved home, Mount Vernon, I learned more of the “other side” of George Washington, including his early contributions in expert farming and fishing on the Potomac River, as well as his amazing craftsmanship and original architecture. All of which took place on the property of his estate.

It was fascinating to learn that Mount Vernon once housed meetings before and during the
Revolutionary War.

This beloved home of George Washington has since been turned into a museum where millions gather each year to learn about our first President.

George Washington believed that the path to economic growth and success as a Nation lied within the ability to naturally produce agricultural products. Washington studied farming extensively including implementing the new husbandry system which included a variety of fertilization methods and a new crop rotation system.

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George Washington even built a custom barn, inventing a new way to collect grain. He constructed this innovative barn with sixteen sides for circular treading. Horses and mules would trot around in the grain, which would collect below the barn and stay sheltered from harsh weather conditions until it was time
to collect it.

Mount Vernon sits on the Potomac River, which was used for fishing and was part of what then was considered a highway or interstate of the time. George Washington took advantage of this fishing, believing the other path to growth as a Nation was expanding West. In a good season of fishing, Washington would catch more than one million Shad Herring to feed his family, guests, and slaves. Washington would then sell the surplus for profit, running his own fishing business in his own backyard.

 

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(Interesting Fact: While I was on the Potomac River dock on the property I learned that on March 28th, 1785, representatives from Virginia and Maryland met at Mount Vernon to discuss navigational rights on the Potomac River. The representatives wrote the Mount Vernon Compact and the meeting was such a success that it led to many more meetings of the same nature, and in turn led to the US Constitution which was written in 1787 and put into effect in 1789.)

George Washington died in 1799. He had written in his will that he wanted a new tomb to be laid to rest in instead of what is now called the Old Vault which is also on Mount Vernon.

After visiting the tomb, I then made my way to George Washington’s famous home, which I can tell you is even more beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Unfortunately no pictures were permitted inside the house so you’ll have to take my word for it until you visit yourself someday.

The outside of the house is the same color as it was when George Washington was living in it, and if you look closely you can see three false windows on the front facing left side of the house. They are boarded on the inside because Washington was fond of art but wanted to keep the home looking symmetrical from the
exterior. The home included a servants hall on the very left, an art gallery, nine bedrooms including the master bedroom and the many guestrooms, and a kitchen on the outside of the house in a separate structure.

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On the other side of this wall with the fake windows is a room dubbed ” The New
Room” because it is the last addition to Mount Vernon that George Washington added.

The New Room served as an art gallery with original paintings still on display all over the
room. There were maybe two-dozen portraits, most of which were of rivers.

The curators of the home think this is because he was very adamant about expanding West and using the water for business and transportation.

Upstairs and through one of four guestrooms is the master bedroom where George and Martha once slept.

This room particularly was interesting because it has more original pieces than any other room in the house, including a desk where Martha
would sit and do work, and a large linen closet for storing the many towels required when housing several guests; something the Washington’s frequently did.

The master bedroom also still has the bed George Washington died in. President
Washington died of an infection in bed surrounded by his loved ones December 14, 1799.

(Interesting Fact: During George Washington’s last year, Mount Vernon housed over 600 guests!)

Downstairs from the master bedroom is George Washington’s study, which is my favorite room on the tour. In his study, Washington obtained 900 volumes and 1,200 titles containing information on anything and everything he could read and learn about. Washington valued education on a personal and public scale believing knowledge is very important. On display in his study is Washington’s original desk with an invention of his chair designed to fan his shoulders and back during the warmer summers via pedal under the desk.

Also in his study, Washington has a portrait of his half-brother, Lawrence Washington. Lawrence mentored Washington when he was young before the Revolutionary war.

(Interesting fact: George Washington inherited Mt. Vernon from his older half-brother, Lawrence, after Lawrence inherited the estate from their father.)

Through the next rooms and the other side of the house in a separate structure was the kitchen. Thankfully pictures were allowed here because it’s not part of the home.

The idea in moving the kitchen outside away from the house was to keep extreme
heat and hazards away from the main building. The kitchen includes stairs in the back that lead up to where the kitchen slaves lived. The downstairs was used for cooking and cleaning and early methods of food storage.

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After leaving the tour of the home, I made my way to the museum because I read online there was a new exhibit called Lives Bound Together. Pictures were again not allowed inside the exhibit so I couldn’t take any inside. Lives Bound Together displayed the many stories of slaves who resided and worked on Mount Vernon and the way President Washington was influenced by their lives. Throughout the exhibit were virtual life stories of slaves who labored varying from different parts of Mount Vernon including kitchen staff, farm hands, and George Washington’s personal butler. I think the exhibit is definitely worth going through when you visit Mount Vernon and I think everyone should see it – the exhibit speaks for itself.

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(Interesting Fact: George Washington was having ethical dilemmas regarding slavery later in life. Washington prioritized national unity over abolition believing that abolition would divide the country. He went on to free 123 slaves in his will immediately following his death.)

My day at Mount Vernon was an experience I am very happy I had. George Washington is the original American hero and visiting his home along with learning about what an amazing man he was makes me personally proud to be a citizen of the country he helped establish roots for.

I’ve barely scratched the surface with how much there is to learn and experience here at Mount Vernon. New exhibits are still on the way so plan your visit to Mount Vernon by visiting http://www.mountvernon.org where you can see learn about new exhibits and special events! They even have a military discount!

~ Trevor 

 

 

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