In 1761 upon Washington inheriting
Mount Vernon, it comprised four rooms and a central passage on the first
floor and three bedrooms on the second. The very long and painstaking
process of enlarging the house in the years before his marriage
consisted of raising the Mansion from its original one and one-half
stories to two and one-half, and in doing so, extensively redecorated
Other improvements that began just
before the start of the Revolutionary War consisted of the north and
south wings. The last room of the house, the large dining room, was not
completed until after the war's end.
The mansion house is constructed of
pine, with an added exterior decorative treatment that gives the
appearance of stone. Washington designed the stunning two‑story piazza
overlooking the Potomac River and the Maryland shoreline, and it was
here that family and guests would gather in warm weather and enjoy the
breeze off the river. He also added the cupola and, after the war, the
beautiful "dove of peace" weathervane.
In an effort to create the basis of a
country gentleman, Washington also rebuilt the outbuildings, lanes and
gardens. The grounds around the Mansion reflect both his practical and
aesthetic sides. From the north to the south are situated the
dependencies where the work of the plantation took place. Along the
east‑west axis are the gardens and pleasure grounds where Washington,
his family, and guests enjoyed leisurely strolls along the serpentine
walkways, formal gardens and hanging woods. The work area, although
located almost adjacent to the home, was designed so as not to intrude
upon the scenic beauty of sweeping lawns.
Today the home has been restored to
its appearance in 1799, the last year of George Washington's life. Its
tranquil beauty and elegant, yet functional settings reflect the
character of the man who was instrumental in establishing independence
for a new nation and for guiding that evolving country through the first
turbulent years of union. Everyone should visit and explore his home and
discover the remarkable man who will perhaps forever be known as first
"in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
Quick Biographical Facts:
Term- April 30,
1789 to March 4, 1797
Birth: Pope's Creek
(Wakefield) Westmoreland County, Virginia, February 22, 1732.
Marriage: Kent County,
Virginia, January 6, 1759 to Martha Dandridge Custis, who was born in
New Kent County, Virginia, June 21, 1731. Martha died at Mount Vernon,
Virginia, May 22, 1802, and is buried at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Children: None (adopted
two children from his wife's first marriage)
Home: Mount Vernon,
Tutoring by family.
Occupation before Presidency:
Surveyor, soldier, planter.
Military Service: Virginia
Militia (1752-1758); Commander-in-Chief of Continental Army 1775-1783).
Member of Virginia House of Burgesses Justice of Fairfax County,
Delegate to First and Second Continental Congresses, President of
at Inauguration: 57
Vice‑President: John Adams, Inauguration April 30, 1789, Federal Hall,
New York, New York.
Vice‑President: John Adams, Inauguration March 4, 1793, Federal Hall,
Occupation after Presidency:
Planter and General of the Army
Death: Mount Vernon,
Virginia, December 14, 1799
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
at age 67
Place of Burial: Mount
A famous story relates how Washington, as a boy,
admitted chopping down his father's cherry tree, with the words
"Father, I cannot tell a lie." The tale was probably invented to
show the great man's love of the truth.
Washington gave the shortest inaugural address of all
the Presidents, speaking only one hundred thirty-five words at his
George Washington maintained five separate farms at his
Mount Vernon Estate.
Of the many statues of Washington, the only one
rendered from life is that which stands in the Rotunda of the Capitol
in Richmond, Virginia.
On April 30, 1789, George Washington, stood on the
balcony of Federal Hall in New York and took his oath of office as the
first President of the United States. Washington wrote to James
Madison, "As the first of every thing, in our
situation will serve to establish a Precedent, it is devoutly wished
on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
Washington pursued two intertwined interests: military
arts and western expansion. At the age of 16 he helped survey
Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord Fairfax. In 1754 he was commissioned
a lieutenant colonel, and fought the first skirmishes of what would
become the French and Indian War. In 1755, as an aide to General
Edward Braddock, he escaped injury when four bullets ripped through
his coat and two horses were shot from under him.
From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution,
Washington managed his lands around Mount Vernon and served in the
Virginia House of Burgesses.
In May 1775 when the Second Continental Congress
assembled in Philadelphia, Washington, as one of the Virginia
delegates, was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. On
July 3, 1775, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his
ill-trained troops and embarked upon a war that was to last six
Washington soon realized that the best scheme was to
harass the British, and reported to Congress,
"we should on all Occasions avoid a general Action, or
put anything to the Risque, unless compelled by a necessity, into
which we ought never to be drawn."
In 1781 with the aid of French allies, Washington
forced the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
After the war, Washington yearned to retire to his
fields at Mount Vernon. But he soon realized that the Nation under its
Articles of Confederation was not functioning well, so he became a
prime mover in the steps leading to the Constitutional Convention at
Philadelphia in 1787. When the new Constitution was ratified, the
Electoral College unanimously elected Washington President.
Washington unfortunately only enjoyed less than three
years of retirement at Mount Vernon, contracting a throat infection,
which led to his death December 14, 1799.
Washington and His Teeth
the most widely accepted rumors is that which people say about his
teeth, or shall we say, lack of. Contrary to popular myth, his
dentures were not made of wood. Washington's natural politeness
served him well when dealing with his painful false teeth. It was said
by John Adams that Washington attributed the misfortune of his
toothlessness to "cracking of walnuts in his youth.@
In 1797, Washington wrote the
following letter to his dentist, Dr. John Greenwood:
I must again resort to you for assistance‑‑The teeth herewith enclosed
have, by degrees, worked loose; and, at length, two or three of them
have given away altogether‑‑I would thank you for returning them as soon
as possible for although I now make use of another set, they are both
uneasy in the mouth and bulge my lips out in such a manner as to make
them appear considerably swelled . . . Send with the teeth, springs
about a foot in length, but not cut; and about double that length of a
tough gold wire, the size you see with the teeth, for fastening the
springs‑‑Accompany the whole with your account, and the amount shall be
immediately sent by post in a bank note.
I am Sir
Your very Hble Servant."
keeping with Washington's outstanding manners and writings, is his work
Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and
Washington wrote this wonderful collection as a school project, before
he reached his 16th birthday. This charming collection
consists of 110 Rules. Here I offer you the first ten, written
exactly as Washington wrote them:
Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to
those that are Present.
When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually
Shew Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.
In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor
Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
If you Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and
Speak not in your Yawning,
but put Your Handkerchief or and before your face and turn aside.
Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when
you Should hold your Peace, walk not when
Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your
Chamber half drest.
At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer;
and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it, neither Put your Hands
into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet
upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on
the other or Crossing them.
Among the attributes that made George
Washington so special and knowledgeable, are his writings. While
there are approximately 65,000 letters in the Library of Congress, one
of the most enjoyable to read was that which he wrote to his wife Martha
on June 23rd, 1775. This letter is one of only two
known to survive, because shortly before her death, Martha destroyed her
letters from George. It is not known whether these were overlooked
or deliberately spared. It is understandable that Martha, I
surmise, desired to protect the privacy between her and her husband
conveyed within the letters. However, it is fortunate that these two
survived, as it gives a wonderful insight into the mind of Washington,
toward his wife and family.
This letter below was written just
General Washington set out on a journey that would lead through peril to
victory and a shining place in history.@
Phil'aPhila, June 23'd, 1775
As I am within a few Minutes of leaving this City, I could not think of
departing from it without dropping you a line, especially as I do not
know whether it may be in my power to write again till I get to the camp
at Boston. I go fully trusting in that Providence, which has been more
bountiful to me than I deserve, & in full confidence of a happy meeting
with you sometime in the Fall. I have not time to add more, as I am
surrounded with Company to take leave of me. I retain an unalterable
affection for you, which neither time or distance can change. My best
love to Jack & Nelly, & regards for the rest of the Family, concludes me
with the utmost truth & sincerity.
Washington and His Clothes
Interestingly, Washington had problems getting clothes to fit
properly. Prior to the American Revolution, he would place orders
with English tailors, however, they had never seen him or measured him.
Thus, when he ordered suits in 1763 from a London tailor, he gave the
"I would have you therefore take
measure of a gentleman who wears well‑made clothes of the following
size‑‑to wit‑‑six feet high & proportionally made; if anything rather
slender than thick for a person of that height and pretty long arms &
thighs‑‑You will take care to make the breeches longer than those you
sent me last..."Clothes that are tight always look awkward and are
uneasy to the Wearer."
When Washington was President, he tried
whenever possible to order clothes and other products that were made in
Visiting Mount Vernon
Having visited Mount Vernon about a dozen times, it is truly
worth the trip. In addition to the Mansion, visitors may also
enjoy the following areas on the grounds. As you enter the property from
the main parking lot, you will find the Purple Heart Memorial. As you
pass through the gates you are met by the Museum Shop, followed by the
Greenhouse and the Archaeology & Restoration Museum. Continuing on
toward the Mansion House is the George Washington Museum. This museum is
newly renovated and offers a look at many of Washington's personal
possessions. Included are the silver spurs he wore during the
Revolution, and his famous pistol. Also included is the family's
silver and china they used for entertaining, and elegant jewelry worn by
Martha. Here visitors may also see the Houdon Bust, considered the best
likeness of Washington ever created.
From this point visitors can enjoy
the Ice House, Overseer's Quarters, Spinning Room, Salt House,
Gardener's House and the Servant's Hall. Next visitor's enter the
Mansion Circle, directly in front of the Mansion House.
Upon entering the Mansion, the tour
reveals George Washington's creativity as an architect and designer.
Each of the 14 rooms is open to the public for viewing and has been
painstakingly restored and furnished based on the 1799 inventor.
Featured are objects used by the Washington family as well as 18th
century antiques similar to those that would have been found in their
home at that time.
As one exits, you'll find the Kitchen
area, followed by the Smokehouse, Wash House, and Coach House, which
contains Washington's Powell Coach and Lord Fairfax's Riding Chair.
Located East down a steep incline from the garden is Washington's Old
Next you will find the Stables and
Paddock, next to the beautiful fruit garden and nursery. From this
point, if one travels East toward the Potomac River, you will find the
wharf which highlights Potomac River Sightseeing Cruises, in season.
Looking back toward the West, visitors will find the Slave Memorial and
within a short distance is Washington's New Tomb. Here lie the
remains of Washington and his wife Martha.
George and Martha Washington's Gravesite
Another area of interest is the
Washington Pioneer Farmer Site. This area consists of four acres and
includes hands-on activities. Located about a five-minute walk
from the Mansion House, it is adjacent to the Potomac River.
Visitors may watch horses tread wheat in the 16-sided barn as well as a
variety of 18th century farming and cooking demonstrations.
To truly enjoy Mount Vernon, you
should allow about 3 hours to see the Mansion and the grounds. The
restaurants are very nice too with excellent period food and the Museum
Shop offers wonderful gift items and great books. Mount Vernon is one
place that everyone should visit!
Copyright © by John T. Marck.
Grateful appreciation is extended to the Mount Vernon Ladies'
Association for their informational assistance with this article.
Additional information noted in quotations herein from the Mount Vernon
1985, 1998, 2001, The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and
George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and
by George Washington, published by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association,
1989. Also from "The Presidents of the United States, and
The First Ladies of the United States, by John T. Marck.
Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All