Ge­orge Washington’s Mount Ver­non

Where Washington - - EDITOR'S ITINERARY -

Yes, Ge­orge Washington was the coun­try’s first pres­i­dent. But his iden­ti­ties also in­cluded strate­gic com­man­der, de­voted hus­band, pas­sion­ate farmer and even whiskey dis­tiller. His­tory buffs learn all about this mul­ti­fac­eted man at his Mount Ver­non es­tate (page 20), just 16 miles south of D.C. near Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia. The Na­tional His­toric Land­mark, built be­tween 1758 and 1778, sits on a dra­matic hill­top perch above the Po­tomac River. Af­ter Washington died (in a bed­room here at age 67), the prop­erty fell into dis­re­pair un­til the Mount Ver­non Ladies’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Amer­ica’s first na­tional his­toric preser­va­tion or­ga­ni­za­tion, bought it in 1858. The pioneer­ing non­profit re­stored the house and grounds and still runs the 500- acre site to­day. With so much to see and do here, a visit can eas­ily fill the day. If you have less than two hours, con­sider these high­lights. Start at the Ford Ori­en­ta­tion Cen­ter to pick up maps and timed man­sion tick­ets—if you didn’t get them in ad­vance online. Then head to the Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter, which tracks Washington’s life through dis­plays that in­clude ac­tual-size fig­ures of him at dif­fer­ent ages (based on foren­sic anal­y­sis): a sur­veyor at 19 (above), a com­man­der at 45 and the first pres­i­dent at 57. Don’t miss the 4-D Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War film (with fall­ing “snow”) or Washington’s den­tures (made with hu­man, cow and horse teeth), a poignant re­minder of the life­long pain he en­dured. On the way to the man­sion, stroll through the Up­per Gar­den to see for­mal beds filled with veg­eta­bles, fruit trees, flow­ers and box­wood. In the green­house shop, gar­den­ers can buy seeds for their home plots. ( Washington was a fan of fauna, too, specif­i­cally her­itage breeds, some of which still re­side here, in­clud­ing Oss­abaw Is­land hogs, red Devon cat­tle and bronze gob­ble tur­keys.) Just out­side the gar­den, peek into the black­smith shop, where a mas­ter crafts­man sends sparks fly­ing as he cre­ates iron tools with a forge that can reach 3,000 de­grees. Other small out­build­ings nearby housed op­er­a­tions for spin­ning wool, cur­ing meat and wash­ing laun­dry. Then tour the Pal­la­di­anstyle, 11,000-square-foot man­sion, whose rooms con­tain a mix of Washington’s ac­tual be­long­ings and pe­riod pieces based on a 1799 in­ven­tory. See spa­ces from the grand New Room (above, left) to Washington’s pri­vate study and dress­ing room. In his will, Washington spec­i­fied that he be buried on the es­tate. To visit the tomb where he lies with his beloved wife, Martha, walk to­ward the river wharf. Con­tinue a lit­tle fur­ther to see a memo­rial com­mem­o­rat­ing the hun­dreds of en­slaved peo­ple who worked on the es­tate. If you have more time, con­sider a visit to the four-acre Pi­o­neer Farm, with a replica of Washington’s 16-sided tread­ing barn, or the re­con­structed Dis­tillery and Grist­mill, where staff make whiskey and corn­meal, both for sale in the es­tate’s main gift shop.

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