"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in
its net of wonder forever."—Jacques Cousteau

May 3, 2017

May 2 – Mount Vernon, VA

Mattawoman Creek – Anchorage
We left Alexandria this morning...a little windier on the Potomac today than last Friday. We didn't spend the time to visit Mount Vernon on our first visit to the area in 2011, so today we decided we'd dock at their wharf and enjoy the beautiful day wandering around the plantation. It's an impressive place that has an amazing view of the Potomac River. 

To create the picturesque view of the river, Washington instructed his enslaved workforce to grade the east lawn at its center. Their labor produced a gentle sweep capped on either side by a small knoll. Below the grassy depression, Washington kept trees neatly trimmed, so that they did not obscure the view of the Potomac.
A map of part of Mount Vernon (click on picture to enlarge)
George Washington’s beloved Mount Vernon began as a one and one-half story farmhouse built in 1735 by his father, Augustine. George acquired the property in 1754, and over the next 45 years slowly enlarged the dwelling to create the resplendent 21-room residence we see today. Washington personally supervised each renovation; advising on design, construction and decoration. 
The spinning house/overseer's quarter, the salt house and gardener's house on the north side of the mansion
As many as 20 enslaved male workers of varying ages may have slept in this room. When the greenhouse slave quarters were built in the early 1790s, the majority of Virginia’s enslaved population usually lived in single or double family cabins. However, at Mount Vernon, this barrack-style bunk room was practical, because many of the enslaved adults at the Mansion House Farm were men who were either single or had jobs that that required them to live apart from their families six days a week.
Looking down to the west gate, where guest would have arrived at Mount Vernon during Washington's time. It's about a mile from the west gate to the bowling green gate.
A look at the mansion from the bowling green gate
The greenhouse, an unusual feature in 18th-century North America, showcased exotic tropical plants. An ingenious system warmed the greenhouse through a series of flues under the floor. 
The smaller building to the right is the kitchen. Slaves would begin their day at 4 AM to prep fires for the daily cooking of the meals and bread for the mansion.
Washington Bedchamber - Mrs. Washington's designed the furniture to be simple and functional, this room was her sanctuary, where she planned her schedule and wrote letters to friends and family members. George Washington died in this room on December 14, 1799. Upon his death, Martha closed the room and spent much of her time in a bedchamber on the third floor. 
Study - After George Washington's return to Mount Vernon at the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, the study became his retreat from ever-present family and visitors; a place where he could quietly and privately tend to business. Reportedly, no one was allowed in this room without his invitation. 
Outdoor toilets like this were often called privies or outhouses; at Mount Vernon they were called necessaries. There were four of these located around the plantation. 
This is a riding chair. It consists of a wooden chair on a cart with two wheels and was pulled by a single horse. It was the prefect for traveling along narrow country roads around Mount Vernon.
George Washington's carriage 
The remains of George Washington and other family members were moved to the New Tomb in 1831.  George Washington surveyed this location for the construction of a new tomb and left specific instructions for his burial. 
Slave Memorial - It is believed that more than 50 enslaved and free African American men, women, and children are buried here. Two memorials, one from 1929, and another from 1983, commemorate the enslaved people of Mount Vernon.
In the late 18th century, Mount Vernon consisted of more than 8,000 acres divided into five farms. George Washington believed that innovative agriculture practices would lead the young nation to financial security.
Gristmill - Where Washington produced thousands of pounds of cornmeal and wheat flour every year. The fine flour was sold all over the world.
Washington’s whiskey distillery was possibly the largest in the country. Its main product was un-aged rye whiskey, but the distillery also produced apple and peach brandies and distilled vinegar. They are producing the same whiskey again today from Washington's recipe and you can purchase it in the gift shop.
The Pearl docked at the Mount Vernon wharf. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, the wharf was an incredibly important part of George Washington’s plantation operations. Goods from abroad arrived at the wharf. Flour, cornmeal, and other bulk items produced at Mount Vernon were loaded onto boats at the wharf and then transferred onto larger ships headed to foreign and domestic markets. 
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