And that includes mine, as I have yet to visit Mount Vernon, the plantation house of George Washington, first President of the United States, and his wife Martha Washington.
The mansion, which is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the estate, is made of wood in a loose Palladian style, and was gradually constructed by George Washington between 1758 and 1778. It occupies the site of a one and a half story farmhouse built by George Washington's father Augustine in 1735.
When Augustin moved his family to the property in 1735, it was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation. In the early 1740s, during the War of Jenkins' Ear, Lawrence Washington, George Washington’s eldest half-brother, served as a militia officer at the Battle of Cartagena. Lawrence inherited the Little Hunting Creek Plantation in 1743 and changed the name to Mount Vernon in homage to Admiral Edward Vernon, his commanding officer. When George Washington inherited the property after Lawrence's death in 1752, he opted to keep the name.
George expanded the house in 1758, raising the roof to make the Mansion two and a half stories high. In 1774, he added the north and south wings, the cupola, and piazza to create the structure we see today.
At 11,028 square feet with two and a half stories and a full cellar, the mansion was considerably larger than the majority of dwelling houses in late 18th-century Virginia. Most Virginians lived in more modest one- or two-room houses ranging in size from roughly 200 to 1200 square feet.
To many visitors' surprise, the exterior of the mansion is rusticated to look like stone, but is actually made of yellow pine siding. Washington first rusticated the structure in 1758 to make it appear constructed of structural sandstone blocks, which were more expensive than brick or wood.
Moreover, the piazza is one of George Washington's biggest contributions to colonial Virginian architecture. This two-story porch fronts the Potomac River is one of the mansion’s most exemplary architectural features, designed by Washington himself. In the 18th century, it was unusual to see such a grand façade on a private residence. It provided an additional living space and is widely seen on homes throughout the United States today.
Mount Vernon has a full basement, but there are no secret passages leading from it. The cellar was used for various purposes and was divided into several rooms, including one with a large fireplace that was used as a dining area for the housekeeper and other white servants as well as to heat food.
Today, one million visitors stream through the mansion each year, but Washington himself hosted roughly 700 guests at the mansion in in 1798, the year before his death.
Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is owned and maintained in trust by The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Permitting the public to see the estate, which is open daily, is part of a 200-year-old tradition started by George Washington himself.
Would you consider visiting Mount Vernon in the near future?