Washington, D.C. Trip Part IV: Mount Vernon

On our final day of tourism in the DC area, we went to see Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington.  The house is right beside the Potomac River, and about 15 miles south of Washington, DC.    Here is a picture of the house and it’s front yard.  The front yard was often used for lawn bowling.

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When you enter the grounds, there is a short movie about George Washington (Pat Sajak is the narrator) that also helps you know what to look for on your visit.  (His life could inspire several full-length movies.)

The grounds are restored to 1799, the year of George Washington’s death.  They contain gardens, orchards, and farmland that is supposed to be a re-creation of the kinds of crops grown at that time.  As a plantation owner, George Washington experimented with many kinds of crops and agricultural methods.  Because fences took so much maintenance, he even tried to make a living fence that would keep the deer out of his orchards.  He believed that if he succeeded, he would make the plantation much more profitable.  It never worked.

There are many buildings on the property, including a blacksmith shop, a stable, a smoke room, a guest house, and slaves quarters.  It was reported that George Washington never sold slaves in a way that broke up families, and he freed his slaves in his will.  In one of the buildings, you could sit down and have a chat with “Martha Washington.” Mrs. Washington was known for being talkative, and her re-enactor portrayed her well.

The main house is large, but not huge.  As you walk through it a series of tour guides talk aobut the various rooms.  (Not all history majors go on to work at Starbucks.)  There are several guest bedrooms, and it was noted that in one year, there were over 700 overnight visitors to the house.  The parlor had a chess board and cards set up.  (I wonder how good of a chess player he was; Benjamin Franklin was supposed to be pretty good.) It was noteworthy that the Washington’s bedroom was decorated more plainly than some of the guest bedrooms.  The kitchen was actually a separate building, because the heat and smells of cooking (and the smell of food storage before refrigeration was invented) needed to be kept out of the main house. 

If you visit here, allow most of a day to see everything.

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