Iconic - to say the least !!! My guess is that most of the folks who read this post have been there at least once and probably a few times. I hadn't been there for awhile so last week on Tuesday we visited Mt. Vernon.
It was a beautiful Virginia day not a cloud in the sky. The sun was so brilliant I couldn't take a picture across the Bowling Green in the front of the house without it "blowing out". There were a few school kids but if you take a look you won't see anyone in this shot and that was what it was like. I wouldn't say we had it to ourselves but October is a wonderful time to travel.
If you decide to visit - you need to get time-stamped tickets online before you go - this will save you waiting to get in if there are crowds....as we were there early - school field trips were coming in behind us.
There is no photography allowed in the house where many of the rooms have been refurbished - and a few are still undergoing renovation which is always fun to see what is being done. As you go from room to room there are docents there who will fill you in on the purpose of the room and the commitment to renovating the room and furnishings to their historical accuracy. For example - in some areas they have analyzed that there were 14 and as many as 22 layers of paint that had been applied. With new technology they have been able to drill down to the original color - the rooms have been updated to reflect the past ! (I actually love that statement - Updated to reflect the Past)!
Not to be a spoiler but George Washington was first and in his last days - a farmer. He had vast lands and hundreds of slaves and workers to do the daily tasks. His earlier employment as a surveyor and his proclivity for geometric orientation provided him with the tools necessary to lay out plots and plots of well designed and conceived farmland AND the buildings which housed the supplies, equipment and craftspersons necessary to support his 8,000 acres.
In reality - it isn't just to learn about the Mansion - it is to visit the "city" that was necessary at that time to support such a monumental undertaking.
Almost all - except for the finest materials that were used in the household and by the Washington's - clothing - footwear - ropes machinery - food were a product of the farm. This includes breeding selective lines of sheep to produce a higher albeit domestic quality of wool.
The leather shop was used to make saddles - shoes - bridles - anything which need to be repaired - which as you can imagine was constant as well as a blacksmith(s) for equipment "manufacturing" and repair. This farm was a city.
One thing that isn't often mentioned are the number of slaves that Washington had or "rented". At one time it was estimated that over 300 were needed to work and run the farms. A memorial has been erected to remember and commemorate them. They have been doing excavation in the surrounding woods since this area is believed to be where many were buried. Washington left in his will - that they would all be freed at his death - but not until Martha died.......+
Leaving the "Mansion" and farm there is a fabulous and I mean fabulous Museum that has been built and dedicated to the importance of General Washington and what his leadership meant during the revolutionary war. It is off the Mansion Grounds and towards the entrance. I would suggest you visit the Mansion and farms first - then spend your other time at the Museum. You might think you have seen Mt. Vernon but until you visit the Museum you haven't had the complete experience.
Entering the "Educational Center" you walk past a giant 3-D forensic face of GW. It follows you as you walk in - eerie. Immediately there is a hands-on forensic display that walks you through how they have been able to recast what they believe how Washington looked at different times of his life. They have taken it to the point where in one of the final dioramas they show him with sunken cheeks. When he died he only had on tooth left. The story goes that he had wooden teeth - apparently they isn't exactly true......the plates may have been wooden but he had real teeth - just not his.
There is so much to see and do. You could probably spend days there reviewing your history and learning new things.. To help - there is an amazing 4-D movie - yes 4-D movie called: Revolutionary War. It chronicles just how hopelessly outmatching we were in fighting the British. I believe it was at the end of 1776 - our "troops" made up of farmers and workers not skilled military fighters as the British were out numbered 5,000 to 50,000. Ten skilled soldiers to every one militia. We didn't have the resources - the supplies - the armaments. It was and looked hopeless.....but we had some fine leadership. The movie highlights the major battles and risks that Washington took in fighting the British before finally - with the help of the French - defeating General Cornwallis at Yorktown. But that isn't all the fun......the movie is in 4-D !!!!
The 4-D part makes you feel a part of the experience. Shaking seats when the canons roar - all around surround sound - flashes of light when they fire - a breezy snowfall covering the audience when Washington is at Valley Forge. On screen action sequences mixed with animated graphics tell the story superbly and bring it all to life. It was a highlight of the visit.
I hope you get a chance to visit - again. In these times it is remarkable to be able to look back at what the founders of this country decided to risk and endure to give US a start.
The Musical 1776 has a Bald Eagle hatching out of an egg. That must have been what it was like to be starting something so ambitious, so preposterous and so likely to fail that it was truly the "Birth of a Nation". We have a messy history - but all stories do. The myths surrounding Washington and his role in the "Birth" are many - and so are the truths !!!!!
Visit Mt. Vernon -
Travel safe Travel Well
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.