If George Washington were to show up at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia today, he would find things the same way he did when he died in 1799. The mansion’s rooms are carefully preserved with their own furnishings and historic analogues, including the study and bedroom, and the New Room, one of the grandest rooms in colonial America.
But above all, Washington was a farmer at heart. On his 500-acre grounds surrounding the mansion are four gardens, a farm, and restored living quarters for slaves who worked on the plantation.
The must-see educational center features interactive exhibits and videos documenting Washington’s life and heritage.
George Washington’s father, Augustine Washington, built a small house on the property in 1734. The future president’s half-brother, Lawrence, lived there until he died of tuberculosis in 1752, when a widow leased the house to the young Washington (and after her death he inherited it ). Washington refurbished the house to what it is today, including raising the roof to make it 2.5 stories high and adding north and south wings, a dome, and a plaza. The approximately 11,000-square-foot mansion was ten times the size of his average home in colonial Virginia. During his time as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to his 1783, Washington loved the land, but rarely saw it. After the war, he returned to Mount Vernon and expanded his plantation to nearly 8,000 acres. His personal life was again interrupted while he was the first President of the United States (1789-97). At the end of his service, he returned to Mount Vernon, where he died.
The house remained in disrepair until 1858 when the Lady of Mount Vernon purchased the property and approximately 200 acres of land for his $200,000. The association will continue to own and operate the assets.
Mount Vernon Highlights
Ford Orientation Center
The Ford Orientation Center, located just inside the main entrance, offers resources to help you plan your visit. Various short films provide background information on Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River, the challenges he faced in building his new country, and how Mount Vernon was saved from collapse. Plan at least 3 hours for the property inspection.
Follow the shaded path from the orientation center and line up to visit the bowling green. Your guide will explain the highlights as you move through the rooms. Look for family portraits, Washington’s coat of arms, and the keys to the Bastille, given to Washington in 1790 by the Marquis de Lafayette. Make your way to the patio overlooking the Potomac River and pull up the rocking chairs for gorgeous views.
Donald W. Reynolds Museum & Education Center
Twenty-three state-of-the-art galleries and theaters delve into the life and legacy of George Washington at this relatively new museum and educational center. Observing his progress as a surveyor, learning to command in the French and Indian Wars, and his mounting before he led a battered Continental Army to victory in the Revolutionary War and became the first President of the United States of America. Expand his Vernon Plantation.
Learn about his 1759 marriage to Martha Dandridge her Custis (and also see an exhibition of her gold her silk damask wedding dress). A fascinating gallery uses futuristic forensics to create three life-size figures of Washington, aged 19, 45, and 57. Revolutionary War Theater immerses you in the chaos of war with 4D effects such as falling snow, fog, flashing lights and thundering cannons. Another gallery explores Washington’s reliance on slaves for Mount Vernon’s success. And here are Washington’s famous artificial teeth. In reality, they were not made of wood, but of ivory, gold, lead, and human teeth (possibly plucked by enslaved people).
Allow at least an hour to see all exhibits.
Four gardens serve different purposes, including a formal garden used to entertain guests in Washington. The greenhouse where Washington cultivated tropical plants, including limes and lemons for a sumptuous dinner. a kitchen garden; and a small botanical garden where he experimented with new kinds of plants.
The 4-acre farm shows what life was like on his 20,000-acre plantation in Washington’s past. People in costumes work the fields and harvest. Livestock roam, including Hog Island sheep, Dominic chickens and Red Devon cows. There is also a replica of a hut where slaves would have lived.
George Washington said he died on December 14, 1799, and although Congress wanted him buried in the newly constructed Capitol, at his request Mount Vernon he was buried. He, Martha, and other family members live in a brick tomb in a wooded enclosure. A quiet place to reflect on the life and times of America’s father.
Other Practical Things
There is a food court, colonial-style restaurants and a gift shop near the entrance.
Several companies offer cruises to Mount His Vernon seasonally, including City Cruises His Mount Vernon Sightseeing Cruises departing from the Washington DC docks and Alexandria, Virginia. You can also bike or pedal along the scenic Mount Vernon Trail (10 miles from Alexandria).
George Washington Distillery
Washington was also a whiskey distillery, and he boasted one of the largest distilleries in the country at the time. He is 4.4 km from the property’s main entrance, burned down in the 19th century but faithfully recreated in 2007 and open to visitors.
Did you know?
The villa looks like it’s made of stone, but it’s not. Washington “rusticized” the exterior, a cheaper way to create the look of stone, by using panels of polished yellow pine.
Tickets and other practical things
15 miles south of Washington, D.C.
· Public transport:
Take the subway (yellow line) to Huntington and board the 101 Fairfax Connector bus.
$28 for adults, $15 for teenagers (ages 6-11), free for children under 5. An audio guide is included in the general admission price. Save time and money by purchasing your tickets online in advance.
・Separate reservation is required for the castle tour
Various other tours are offered daily, including an in-depth tour of the mansion
· The distillery is open for tours only on Saturdays and Sundays from April to October. Advertising $10