Five years after the Civil War, a visitor to Wakefield observed that the freestone slab that George Washington Parke Custis placed over the presumed birth site was missing. In the s, Congress donated a foot obelisk and erected it on a brick foundation on the recently discovered site of what people thought were the remains of the birth house.
On February 23, , Mrs. After relocating the memorial shaft, the association built the Memorial House over the foundation found in the s. Constructed between and , and not intended to be a replica of the birth house, of which no images survived, Memorial House represents instead a typical house of the upper classes of the mid s. It is probably a bit more elegant than the original.
Charged with administering the site since , the National Park Service conducted archeological investigations that revealed a second, larger foundation not far away from the Memorial House. Excavations confirmed that this was the actual location of the birth house. The outline of the foundation is now marked with crushed oyster shells. The excavations of the main house and a number of outbuildings also provided thousands of artifacts, including ceramics, jewelry, glass, and clay pipes.
These artifacts have been invaluable in telling the story of the site, in furnishing and interpreting the Memorial House, and in the reconstruction of the working colonial farm. Today, the monument includes the historic birthplace area, the burial ground, and the working colonial farm. Livestock, poultry, and crops of traditional varieties and breeds are raised on the farm to show farming techniques common during colonial times. A colonial herb and flower garden is also included on the grounds. It is open daily am to pm year round.
An entrance fee is charged for adults ages 16 and older. The property includes a one-mile nature trail and picnic area with tables, grills, pavilion, and restrooms. The Potomac River beach offers views of the river and Maryland, walking, sunbathing, and fishing; however, swimming is not allowed. Mount Vernon , Virginia Mount Vernon plantation was not only the beloved home of George Washington, the first president of the United States, but also the source of much of his wealth and the mark of his status as a leading member of the Virginia planter elite.
He lived here for over 40 years, happily returning home whenever his life of public service permitted. Between , when he moved to Mount Vernon with his bride, Martha, and his death in , he expanded the plantation from 2, acres to 8, and the house from six rooms to The house, with its long, two-story piazza overlooking the Potomac River, is one of the most instantly recognizable, and most copied, buildings in America. Under the leadership of Ann Pamela Cunningham, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association purchased Mount Vernon from the Washington family in , restored the house in the country's first successful nationwide preservation effort, and opened the estate to the public in Today meticulously restored to its appearance in , the mansion preserves the legacy of this great American.
Three rooms are on either side of the wide central hall on the first floor.
The front parlor, music room, and the grand two-story large dining room are located north of the center hall. The grounds remain largely as Washington intended, an appropriate setting for a member of the plantation elite. Pleasure grounds, gardens, and broad vistas extend from the Potomac River west to the original entrance road.
The smokehouse, workshops, stables, and other restored outbuildings, where slaves did much of the work of the estate, sit on a line north and south of the house, close enough for convenience but nearly invisible. Other portions of the estate present the plantation as a living-history pioneer farm. The tomb of George and Martha Washington lies to the south of the mansion. Two modern facilities help tell the story of the real George Washington to visitors.
Reynolds Museum and Education Center include galleries and theaters, interactive displays, and over artifacts. In , John Washington, the great-grandfather of George, obtained the land along the Potomac where Mount Vernon lies. From about until , Augustine and his family, including young George, resided there on what was then known as Hunting Creek Plantation. In , Augustine deeded the estate to his eldest son, Lawrence, George's half-brother, who renamed the plantation Mount Vernon after Admiral Vernon, under whom he had served in the Caribbean.
George spent part of his youth at the estate with Lawrence, who had married into the powerful Fairfax family and became a mentor to his young half-brother. It was here that George absorbed the planter ideals of honor and ambition. Honor demanded demonstrations of merit before the whole community, speaking in public, training militias, giving generously to those below him, and showing his good taste through his personal appearance, his polite manners, and the design of his plantation.
Ambition was a virtue. Fame and glory showed character and benefited both the man and the greater society.
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It was these values that Washington first pursued and then came to embody. Its refusal precipitated the French and Indian War. His subsequent years of military service earned George Washington high rank and respect as a military leader. In , George leased the property, then over 2, acres, from Lawrence's widow and upon her death in , George inherited it. From to , Washington rebuilt the modest one and one half-story house at Mount Vernon into an impressive two and one half-story mansion and extensively redecorated the interior.
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In , Washington retired from the army and married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow and mother of two children. Their combined property placed the couple high in the Tidewater planter aristocracy. Between and , he occupied most of his time becoming one of the largest landowners and richest and most innovative planters in Virginia. He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for part of that time, becoming increasingly dissatisfied with British colonial policies. Toward the end of this period, he began to enlarge the house, adding a new wing on the south, beginning work on a north wing, and remodeling the interior.
Selected as one of the Virginia representatives to the Continental Congress, George Washington left for Philadelphia in Congress appointed him as commander in chief of the Continental Army the following year. Although his military experience was limited, he had the intelligence, courage, and determination to avoid defeat long enough to turn his ragtag Continental Army into a force capable of meeting and defeating professional British troops on the open field. On August 19, , Washington marched south with his army to assist the French fleet against the British under Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia.
The surrender of Cornwallis on October 19 ended the war. By this time, America recognized Washington as its first military hero, but in December , he resigned his commission. By renouncing power at a time when he probably could have been crowned king, he became internationally famous and set the first of many precedents for the new nation. Beveled pine blocks covered with paint mixed with sand, giving the appearance of stone, replaced the simple frame exterior. In the summer of , he traveled to Philadelphia, where he served as president of the Constitutional Convention.
He departed once more when the Electoral College created by the newly adopted Federal Constitution elected him president in its first and only unanimous vote. Because the Federal Government was located in New York and Philadelphia throughout his presidency, he was able to return to Mount Vernon only about twice a year. Always aware of the effects of his actions, he established precedent after precedent for the presidency as an institution.
His second term was troubled by the international tensions created by the war between England and revolutionary France and by growing partisanship within his own administration.
His support for the strict neutrality advocated by Hamilton kept the new United States out of war, but led to the resignation of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Washington hated political partisanship, but the differences between Hamilton and Jefferson soon sparked creation of the first two political parties, Federalist and Republican.
In , Washington declined a third term, setting a precedent left unbroken until and now permanent in the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. He retired to his home at Mount Vernon in and died there two years later at the age of His wife lived there until she passed away in It has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. Mount Vernon offers a wide array of activities for visitors. For more information visit the Mount Vernon website or call It is open daily year-round according to the following schedule: April-August, am to pm; March, September, and October, am to pm; and November-February, am to pm.
An admission fee is charged. Seasonal half-hour narrated boat tours along the Potomac River depart from the Mount Vernon dock; there is a separate charge for the boat tours. Planned to connect Washington, DC, the capital city whose location he had selected, to Mount Vernon and the Great Falls of the Potomac River, the parkway passes over the same land Washington frequently traveled on horseback. The last section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway opened in after many delays. With views of the broad Potomac to the south and the rugged Potomac Palisades to the north, the parkway provides a scenic entryway for visitors to the nation's capital.
The first automobile tourists arrived at Mount Vernon in , and by the mid s, sightseers congested the hazardous, poorly maintained roads. Billboards, gas stations, and other unsightly developments detracted from the drive. Planning for a highway "of noble proportion," linking the capital with Mount Vernon began as early as , with the chartering of the Mount Vernon Avenue Association. Colonel Peter Hains of the United States Army Corps of Engineers surveyed a number of possible routes and described his vision in a report to Congress, "It is to commemorate the virtues of the grandest character in American history It should have the character of a monumental structure, such as would comport with the dignity of this great nation in such an undertaking, and the grandeur of character of the man to whom it is dedicated.
Charged with its design and completion, the Bureau of Public Roads began building the highway in Well-known landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Moore II, and Gilmore D. The parkway was to include the earlier Memorial Highway and extend it to Great Falls creating a long regional park on both sides of the Potomac. Beginning in the s, the Great Falls of the Potomac were a popular tourist attraction.
In the s, stone quarrying and plans for hydroelectric dams threatened to destroy the natural beauty of the Great Falls and Potomac Palisades. Cramton lobbied for the preservation of this unique natural and historical landscape, and aroused public sentiment by linking saving the area to the awe-inspiring name of George Washington.
He saw the Potomac River as a future channel of commerce connecting the Eastern Seaboard to the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains and uniting the nation through improved trade and transportation. The most serious obstacle to making the Potomac navigable was the Great Falls. In , Washington convinced the assemblies of Virginia and Maryland, which bordered the river, to establish a company to improve navigation on the Potomac between its headwaters near Cumberland, Maryland and tidewater at Georgetown.
Organized in , the Patowmack Company had directors and subscribers from both States; George Washington was president and presided over the project until he went to New York to accept the office of president. The greatest engineering challenge was the construction of a canal and locks on the Virginia side of the river to bypass the Great Falls, where the Potomac drops nearly 80 feet in less than a mile. Hired hands, indentured servants, and slaves blasted the southern end of the narrow canal through high rocky cliffs by using only black powder creating an engineering marvel of the day.
Although George Washington did not live to see the canal completed, he often visited the project to inspect its progress. Many boats used the canal to bypass the falls, but it was never profitable and was abandoned in Building George Washington Memorial Parkway was a technical challenge. Chronic shortages of money slowed construction, which lasted off and on for almost 40 years. Most of the parkway on the Virginia side of the river opened in , the final section in Conservationists, who opposed highway construction in scenic or historic locations, ultimately prevented the planned extension of the parkway to Great Falls.
In Virginia, construction ended at the Washington Beltway. On the Maryland side, the parkway was partially completed between Chain Bridge and Carderock, just north of the Beltway. The Maryland parkway had its name changed in honor of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, whose home now a unit of the National Park System, is located nearby.