While recently on tour in Washington DC, House Crazy Sarah had the opportunity to visit the historic home of the first president of the United States, General George Washington. His family home, Mount Vernon, was a plantation estate situated on the Potomac river in Fairfax County, Virginia.
House Crazy Sarah is ashamed to admit that she is looking like a frumpy middle-aged tourist in these photos. But in her defense… oh heck, there is no defense. 🙁
In any case, she went to visit with the ghost of General George Washington and his wife Martha for a spell. (The General likes to be referred to as such, rather than Mr. President, because he identified more with his military escapades than with being the first president of the USA.)
George Washington’s father Augustine built the original house around 1734. George Washington added on to the house twice, once in the late 1750s and again in the 1770s. He called Mount Vernon home for the rest of his life and then it was handed down to successive generations of his family until it came under the care of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1858.
As you can see, the main house is having some restoration work done.
House Crazy Sarah was fascinated to see that there is wood under the stucco finish.
So what actually appears to be concrete or stone block, is actually just wood with an adobe-like coating. Yes folks, this grand home was actually built of wood!
Inside the main house, the rooms are furnished with either period antiques or actual pieces of furniture that were present in the house during General Washington’s life.
The guide told us that the mirror (below) is the only mirror original to the house. Imagine gazing into a mirror that is as old as the USA! A mirror that George Washington himself once peered into!
(There’s that frumpy middle-aged tourist again.) Ugh.
In the room below, lath boards were left exposed to show the house’s skeletal form. Look how crooked they are with age!
There are a lot of bold colors and prints in the house. A guide told us the restoration team recreated what would have been present in Washington’s day from period descriptions of the house. There are no original rugs or wall papers left. 🙁
The guide said that the small blue sofa (below) is original to the house and was the first sofa EVER brought to America, because they simply didn’t make sofas in America back in the 18th century. Only the finest for the General!
Something that struck House Crazy Sarah was that when the walls were blue, they were BLUE! No accent colors, no off-color trim. Just one solid color throughout the entire room.
There is a TON of blue and green in this house. This probably has more to do with the limited paint pigments that were available at the time than with George or Marsha’s personal tastes.
The bedroom below is referred to as the “blue room”.
The wallpaper is a close reproduction to what was originally in the room.
In the room below, you can see the actual crib that George and Martha had for their grandbabies. Of course, the General did not have any biological children of his own, but he helped raise two of Martha’s children from a previous marriage and several of their children.
Below is George and Martha’s bedroom:
It was probably the most serene room in the house.
Below, another guest bedroom. The Washington’s literally hosted several hundred sleepover guests a year. And the guest sometimes stayed for months!
Such was common practice when you owned a large country estate and you were as famous as GW.
Below, the General’s office:
One entire wall is a library but sadly, none of George Washington’s personal books survived.
The main house did not have a kitchen, as was custom in this era of home. Instead, there was a kitchen/cook house in a completely separate structure a few short steps from the manor (pictured below).
On the side of the house that faces the Potomac river, there is a long, graceful veranda. Residents and guests alike could spend evenings watching the marine traffic come and go.
Mount Vernon is also the place where George Washington and his wife are entombed.
House Crazy Sarah was surprised to see that visitors can come within arms reach of the final resting place of General Washington and his wife Martha!
It was all a tad morbid, but kind of cool that the General is buried in a backyard cemetery.
Just a few steps away from the tomb of the Washington’s is the cemetery where several hundred of Mount Vernon’s former slaves were buried.
A local university is in the process of excavating and identifying the remains of the slaves. You can see in this photo (below) where they have covered some of the excavated graves with tarps.
Not far from the main house, the slave quarters still stand.
The slaves lived a far less opulent life than the residents of the main house.
There were several period actors on site who were completely in character and spoke to us about their daily lives, like this house servant…
When asked what she wished for her people in the distant future, she gave the most poignant response about how she dreams her descendants will someday see freedom.
There was also this fickle fellow (below) who got nasty when House Crazy Sarah asked him if the General really had wooden teeth.
His indignant reply was that the General does NOT like other people discussing his oral health, but truth be told, the General suffers greatly both physically and emotionally from the terrible state of his teeth. And yes General Washington had several pair of dentures but no, NONE of them were made of wood!
In the gift shop, House Crazy Sarah couldn’t help but be drawn to a likeness of George Washington’s teeth that was actually a fridge magnet. Of course she bought it as a souvenir and now George Washington’s teeth are holding up her kids’ student-of-the-month certificates on her refrigerator.
(And for the record, Washington’s dentures were made of a combination of cow teeth, human teeth, and elephant ivory.)
You learn the darndest facts when you hang with House Crazy Sarah!