Mount Vernon – George Washington’s Home

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Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, located near Alexandria, Virginia, is the historic plantation home built by George Washington, the first President of The United States of America. It is located on the Little Hunting Creek Estate on the banks of the Potomac River, and was constructed in the same style as The White House – that of the Georgian neoclassical design. The Mount Vernon plantation and residence was not constructed on the site until 1741, however the land had been in the possession of the Washington family since 1674, and was first owned by George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington. Both John Washington and friend Nicholas Spencer utilized the land as a hunting area, and the land was eventually split into two halves after being handed down over the course of three generations — one half for each family.

The Washington portion of the property, upon John’s death, was inherited by George Washington’s grandfather, Lawrence Washington. Lawrence left the property to Mildred, his daughter, who promptly sold the land to Augustine Washington, George’s father. At this point in time a small tobacco plantation and modest living quarters were set upon the estate. The land was originally set to be inherited by Augustine’s eldest son, Lawrence. However, Lawrence informed his father of his intention to live in Fredericksburg, not Little Hunting Creek, when he returned from service in the Caribbean with the Regular British Army. Hoping to dissuade his son from living in another locale upon his return, Augustine began construction of another modest residence at the present-day location of the current Mount Vernon home. Lawrence made one request to his father, and that was to name the hilltop home “Mount Vernon,” after Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, Lawrence’s commanding officer. The ploy worked, and Lawrence and his family took up residence in Mount Vernon in 1743. That same year, Lawrence’s father passed away, and Lawrence began the task of expanding the Mount Lawrence residence.

Lawrence passed away of tuberculosis in 1752, leaving the estate to his widow, Anne Fairfax and his half-brother, George Washington. Anne remarried soon after her husband’s death, and upon moving out of Mount Vernon, left the estate to George and her eldest

child, who died two years later. At this point in time, George Washington was not only the manager of the plantation, but now was tasked with managing the estate, which was still owned by Anne. When Anne passed away in 1761, the only member of the family left to inherit the state was George. For the next fifteen years, George took a scientific approach to agricultural techniques and operated the house and large plantation, taking great interest in advances in the agricultural field. Improvements to the property included rebuilding the whole house into a large, architecturally-pleasing residence (using mostly slave labor from the plantation) and the establishment of the nation’s largest whiskey distiller.

Washington left Mount Vernon in 1775 to join in service to his country in the American Revolutionary War. In 1789, Washington was elected as the first President of The United States of America, but still remained in residence at Mount Vernon off and on throughout his two terms, totaling more than a year and a half at the residence. The estate fell into decline after Washington’s death in 1799, the estate quickly fell into further decline through a series of inexperienced owners for an estate this size. After both the United States Government and Virginian Government refused to purchase the estate, it was left vacant. It wasn’t until 1858 that an acceptable offer was made on the house, this time by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, who set about making repairs to the entire estate, including the falling-apart residence. After making a series of installment payments, the estate was officially acquired by the association in February of 1860. The following five years saw the outbreak of the American Civil War between the Confederacy and the Union – out of respect, the Mount Vernon Estate remained a neutral ground for both parties to assemble and talk. The association was able to completely restore the main residence, plantation grounds, and other smaller buildings – complete with period furniture – entirely with the use of private funds.

On December 19, 1960, the estate was declared a National Historic Landmark. On March 30, 2007, the last portion of the estate’s restoration – a working period whiskey distillery – opened. Located on the exact site of Washington’s own distillery, the whiskey produced here is created entirely via period methods and produces up to 5,000 gallons a year. It is for exclusive sale in the gift shop at Mount Vernon. Since November 2007, President George W. Bush began utilizing the landscaped areas of Mount Vernon to host occasional press briefings with foreign dignitaries. Today, visitors can tour the main house, slave quarters, stables, greenhouse, four different gardens, and a museum 365 days a year. The tombs of both George and Martha Washington are also located at the site, and are a popular visiting location.

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