We had a long list of places we wanted to see when we arrived in the DC area, and Mount Vernon was at the top of my list. Unfortunately when we were checking to see what places were open despite COVID we misread the website and thought it was closed. Thankfully I got an ad in my Facebook feed and we rechecked towards the end of our stay and discovered the grounds and first floor of the house were open with a ticketed tour. So we purchased tickets for a Friday we headed that way!
When we arrived we were both very hungry and decided to have lunch at the Washington Inn. Normally this place probably would have been packed but because it was 1pm and and not the weekend we got right in. The building was on the grounds of the original restaurant and was built in 1931. The food was pricey but OK and we were able to eat and go right next door to the grounds with minimal fuss.
We walked through the visitor center and were on the grounds. I wasn’t thrilled we had to pay once for the grounds and again for the house, but the grounds turned out to be well worth it. During the peak season there is a trolley, but that wasn’t running but honestly I don’t see the need. It was a pleasant walk and we even saw a little bit of sun and a couple of hours was plenty of time to see the grounds.
Speaking of being particular, George Washington laid out exactly how he wanted his burial to be. Because the new monument needed to be built he was temporarily placed in the old vault and the remains were later moved.
More than anything else I wanted to see where he was buried and I was quite pleased with the site. It was modest, but presidential, and I particularly liked the marble crypt with the seal of the president on top.
Around the corner from his tomb was a memorial for the slave graveyard. This area was very well done and there was lots of information throughout the site on Washington’s feelings about slavery. He freed all of his slaves upon his wife’s death, but her slaves that came as part of her dowry went back to her family. Because there was intermarriage between the two groups, there was tragedy as families were ripped apart once they both died.
Next we walked down to the waterfront and learned quite a bit about his fishing industries. Some years the plantation made more from the fisheries than it did from crops, which was something I didn’t know.
Next we walked up to the house and grounds which was several buildings. Each building talked about what it was for and had replications of historical artifacts from that time. I will say I was disappointed that very few items were original. The working blacksmith shop actually makes replicas of many of the parts they need and we spent some time talking to the two men working in there.
Washington wasn’t the inventor that Benjamin Franklin was, but he did like new ideas. His kitchen for example was a completely different building and he had an ice house and other designs that were somewhat revolutionary for the times. No pun intended 🙂
Don’t underestimate the amount of time you will want to spend around the house. There are tons of buildings and a couple more gardens to look at.
Finally it was time for our inside tour and I have to say this was one of the weirdest tours I have ever been on. The bulk of it was discussed outside and once we were inside we were not allowed to talk. The tour guide held laminated signs saying things like “Washington Original” and the tour itself of only the downstairs was very short. If you are on a budget I would recommend paying for the grounds for sure, but the inside was a real disappointment. Almost everything in the house is not original and the few exceptions didn’t really mean anything to me. It was thrilling to stand on the land George Washington once stood on but that was about it for the inside.
Lee did get some beautiful pictures from the outside as we were leaving and since most people were gone they turned out great.
Really glad we went, and can’t wait to see Monticello when we get to Virginia. Huge check mark off my personal bucket list and definitely a uniquely Maryland thing to do.
One more thing I wanted to mention. The estate was left to George’s nephews because he never had children. Martha was a widow with two small children when they got married and he raised them as his own, but they did not receive the estate.
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