On a recent sunny afternoon, a friend shared with me one of the most beautiful and peaceful places that I have been in a long while: Mount Vernon, the home and estate of George and Martha Washington.
Located sixteen miles south of Washington DC, and eight miles south of Old Town Alexandria, Mt Vernon sits in a pictaresque and undeveloped area on the Potomac River.
Washington acquired Mt Vernon in 1754, and expanded and developed the grounds to reflect his status as part of the landed gentry. He personally oversaw every detail to the estate design, construction, and decoration, even while he was away at war.
Mansion tours run on a continuous basis. Fourteen rooms are open for viewing to the public, and have been restored and furnished based on the standards of the day from 1799, including some original objects used by the Washington family. No photography is allowed in the Mansion.
In front of the Mansion is the bowling green, a huge expanse of beautifully manicured lawn, which lies just inside the gate where visitors first entered the estate (seen in photo above). This first view of the estate must have been an impressive one.
The back yard overlooks the Potomac (photo at right), and is a comfortable mix of landscaped grounds and grounds left in a natural state. There are chairs to sit in, and guests are free to wander and enjoy the view. I could just imagine the Washington famly and guests playing on the lawn and enoying a sunny day over 200 years ago.
The outer grounds surrounding the Mansion are beautifully, yet practically, landscaped, and reflect the fact that the estate was both a working plantation and a place of respite. Out buildings available to look at include: slave quarters, ice house, overseer’s quarters, kitchen, wash house, stable and paddock, and the coach house.
Washington’s tomb is located on the property at Mt Vernon. He died in the Mansion’s master bedroom on December 14, 1799, and, pursuant to his will, was laid to rest in a brick tomb on his beloved estate. Martha’s body lies there as well.
I think the gardens are the best part of the estate. The beds have been restored to their original size, and contain a variety of flowers, herbs, fruit trees, and vegetables, including some boxwood planted back in the 1700’s.
Mount Vernon is open 365 days a year. The Mansion is open for tours from 8 am through 5 pm (summer hours). Grounds close a half hour later.
Admission is $13 for adults, $12 for seniors, $6 for youth 6-11 (when accompanied by adult), children under five are free.
Photo credit: Jon Rochetti, c. 2006.