Friday, April 07, 2006

Mount Vernon


DC 4-06
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

The last day of our stay we set out for Mount Vernon. Located about 16 miles south of D.C., not only was it a nice drive, but pretty as well. Upon arriving you make your way to a small cottage like ticket booth, gain entrance and make the short hike up to the residence around out buildings which include a gift shop (of course), the slave quarters, and a historical restoration room where you can read all about how the estate was brought back to it's original status. It seems that the original house was George's great grandfather's home and made it down to him after his own father's demise. He built on to the original house, adding not only upper levels, but the surrounding buildings and landscaped gardens, farms, etc. For his time, he was considered quite innovative and clever.

Difficult to see in the photos unless you click to view them larger, is the side of the home. Made from pine, the era dictated that wealth and status would glean a more expensive building material such as stone block. George, although quite wealthy, (consider that the dining room he added on was larger than most homes during that time) decided a better way to achieve the look without the investment of dollars, would be to engage craftsmen. The craftsmen would carve the planks of pine so that they resembled carved stone with grout lines. After the house was assembled the pine was covered with three coats of fresh white paint mixed with sand to give the appearance of stone. This was a technique that many used for the front facades of their homes, George had the entire building and it's pillars, etc. covered this way to carry the illusion even further than the neighbors.


DC 4-06
Originally uploaded by S'mee.

Like I said, it's difficult to see in the photos, but it was a pretty good trick. Inside the home George eventually did the same faux techniques to fool his visitors. Pine paneling was installed throughout the home. What wasn't painted with the latest colour of paint was faux finished to resemble rich walnut. Tricky guy.

All in all the grounds were lovely and the view of the river -amazing. George prided himself in his being a farmer and the grounds reflect his passion. Nothing was left to chance. In later years, after his death, the land and it's buildings fell to his nephew and later to other relatives and in 1858 (i think) the Ladies in town said "enough!" Years of visitors and curiosity seekers had done a lot of damage and the entire estate was in disrepair. They gathered their purses and purchased the estate for $200,000.00 and began restoration.

Today it continues. 80% of the original wood is still part of the buildings, etc. Every year more and more of the original furnishings are purchased, leased, or on loan from the owners and placed according to their first intended use in the home. Currently the Ladies of Mount Vernon are busy little bees adding an upscale hotel, museum and other attractions such as restaurants, etc. There are at least three gift shops with everything from nickel and dime souvenirs to high dollar replicated china and silks. These ladies mean business in all it's dementions. They actually have a food court loosely based on the design of George's six sided barn; and the last entry hall you will see as you begin to "leave" has a marble inlay map of the entire estate.

My only suggestion to the ladies would be to visit either DC or SLC Temple Square and study the tour guides. Although it ran smoothly, the guides had a tendency to talk over one another and often you would hear the same information in two different stops, missing pertinent information in others. Still a really nice day.

Please click on the "Mount Vernon" at the top of the post. It will lead you to the official page where you can take a virtual tour of the grounds and especially the interior of the house (where, byw, you are not allowed to photograph). Click out the pop up buttons to get more info and check out the VIVID colours that were the popular rage! Woohoo!


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1 comment:

Susan M said...

How interesting! Sounds like you had a good trip. I like visiting historic sites.