8 Things You May Not Know About George Washington's Mount Vernon

8 Things You May Not Know About George Washington's Mount Vernon


photography courtesy of   GEORGE WASHINGTON'S MOUNT VERNON

As the home of our nation’s first president and Founding Father, Mount Vernon is incredibly iconic and, therefore, incredibly tourist-worthy. Aside from the breathtaking architecture and beautifully designed gardens, there are other interesting reasons to put Mount Vernon at the top of your list for your next historic sight-seeing excursion.

Fact 1 : It’s Family Land

In 1674, George Washington’s great-grandfather, John, and a friend were awarded a 5,000-acre land grant from Lord Thomas Culpeper under a dispensation from King Charles II of England.

The grant comprised a peninsula on the Potomac River, bordered by Dogue Run and Little Hunting Creek. The land was divided equally between the two men, but the entirety of the grant later became George Washington’s Mount Vernon.


Fact 2 : Mount Vernon Has a “Who’s Who” Guest List

Originally built in 1735 with an expansion in 1758 and then again in the mid-1770s, Mount Vernon is not only very old, but also boasts a long list of noteworthy visitors. “Historical figures including the Marquis de Lafayette, Frederick Douglass and Fidel Castro have visited Mount Vernon,” says Elizabeth Keaney, who has worked at Mount Vernon off and on since 2004 and began officially portraying Martha Washington in 2018, in addition to developing a new specialty tour, Mrs. Washington’s Mount Vernon. “More contemporary famous guests to Mount Vernon include King Charles III and Queen Camilla—who, at the time, were then the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall—as well as Patti LaBelle, who performed for the 2020 PBS special ‘United in Song,’ and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.” More than 27 US presidents have also visited the estate.


Fact 3 : There Are Ghosts in Residence

Many people believe the spirits of those who once lived at Mount Vernon are still present and inhabiting the grounds. “The first ghost encounter on record for [Mount Vernon] was printed in the New York World newspaper in 1890 and some staff have experienced spooky encounters to this day,” says Keaney.


Fact 4 : It Has Its Own Fire Department

“Today, the Mount Vernon Fire Department is the estate’s very own emergency response team,” Keaney says, going on to note that the department receives firetrucks from Fairfax County through a mutually beneficial partnership. Mount Vernon’s first fire truck was donated in 1923 by the Ford Motor Company after Ford toured the estate with his wife. Because he saw the vulnerabilities of the estate in the event of a fire outbreak, he later delivered a built-to-order American-LaFrance Combination Chemical and Hose Car. More than a decade later, he replaced the engine with a more sophisticated model, encouraged the formation of Mount Vernon’s own fire department and installed fire hydrants and alarms.


Fact 5 : The Botanical Garden Was Used for Science

Once upon a time, Mount Vernon’s botanical garden was also referred to as the “little garden” and was one of Washington’s favorite places on the estate. He used it to plant varieties of seeds that he had either bought or was given and used unusual methods to experiment with cross-pollination and creating new breeds as a hobby.


Fact 6 : It’s Based on British Design

As distasteful as he found the British, Washington loved the architecture and design of England’s manors and wanted to mimic their aesthetic in a way that presented Mount Vernon in a grand, yet rural light. To that end, he based much of the layout on that of England’s great estates.


Fact 7 : Mount Vernon Was a Business

George Washington was known to be an innovative farmer and grew tobacco and wheat as cash crops at Mount Vernon. He carefully experimented with new crops, fertilizers, crop rotation, tools and livestock breeding and eventually built a large gristmill to grind corn into meal for use at Mount Vernon and wheat into superfine flour for export to foreign ports. In addition, he began making whiskey and built one of the largest distilleries in America.


Fact 8 : George and Martha Washington Are Entombed There

When Washington died in 1799, his last will and testament dictated that he be interred at his home at Mount Vernon, along with provisions for a new brick tomb to be constructed. Inside, two marble sarcophagi now mark the final resting place of President and Mrs. Washington.

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